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Covid-19: Drones, fever goggles, arrests: millions in Asia face “extreme surveillance”

Draconian surveillance measures introduced during the Covid-19 epidemic are handing “unchecked powers” to authoritarian regimes across Asia, human rights experts are warning, reports the guardian.com/uk.

In a recent report, risk analysts warn that “extreme measures and unchecked powers” brought in to tackle Covid-19 could become permanent features of Asian governments and have an impact on the rights and privacy of millions of people.

Analysts at Verisk Maplecroft discovered that surveillance tools and technology such as drones that monitor curfews and lockdown, fever detection goggles, and apps that track the spread of Covid, are already being deployed as part of laws and other measures brought in during the pandemic in countries including Cambodia, China, Pakistan and Thailand.

The report highlights a trend of arrests linked to citizens criticising national Covid response programs, pointing to Cambodia where people speaking out about the government’s policies had been detained.

Verisk Maplecroft’s has assessed 198 countries on arbitrary and mass surveillance operations. The Right to Privacy Index (RPI) found that Asia was the highest-risk region for breaches of privacy.

Other countries named in the report include Pakistan, ranked fourth highest in the risk analysis, where a “secretive militant-tracking surveillance system is being used to monitor coronavirus patients”.

Amnesty International has stated, “The Chinese government has spent years developing technologies that facilitate intrusive mass surveillance. We fear the government will use the pandemic as an excuse to normalise and push forward a range of surveillance measures.”

And Sofia Nazalya, a senior human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, concurred, “Countries like China and Cambodia don’t need a reason to up their surveillance but Covid has accelerated the pace at which these types of technology can be abused.”

She continued, “Accountability is key. Wherever possible we need to ensure that whatever legislation is enacted is appropriate and proportionate. We need to ask that at the end of the pandemic, for example, will it still make sense to have drones flying about?”

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(News Source: https://www.theguardian.com/uk)

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