More than 100 civil society groups have urged governments around the world to respect human rights amid an expansion of digital surveillance reportedly meant to combat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The civil society groups joined Amnesty International in signing the statement, including Access Now, Human Rights Watch and Privacy International that set out strict conditions that must be met to safeguard human rights and prevent surveillance overreach.
With governments across the world rapidly expanding the use of digital surveillance in an attempt to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International and other leading NGOs argued that technology can be abused by governments.
“Technology can play an important role in the global effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this does not give governments carte blanche to expand digital surveillance. The recent past has shown governments are reluctant to relinquish temporary surveillance powers. We must not sleepwalk into a permanent expanded surveillance state now,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim, Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech.
“Increased digital surveillance to tackle this public health emergency, can only be used if certain strict conditions are met. Authorities cannot simply disregard the right to privacy and must ensure any new measures have robust human rights safeguards. Wherever governments use the power of technology as part of their strategy to beat COVID-19, they must do so in a way that respects human rights.”