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Civil Liberties at Risk as Authorities Deploy Invasive Technologies to Contain Virus

HeadlineApr 03, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed new technologies that are challenging civil liberties like never before.

In San Francisco, the founder and CEO of the videoconferencing company Zoom apologized Wednesday over software flaws that have allowed hackers to steal passwords, to join private calls and even to hijack Mac users’ webcams and microphones. Zoom has seen a sudden surge of nearly 200 million daily users working and studying remotely.

In Tunisia, police are remotely operating robots — equipped with cameras, microphones and loudspeakers — to check residents’ IDs while enforcing a lockdown in the capital Tunis.

Indonesian authorities are using drones to spray disinfectant in some residential neighborhoods, raising concerns over privacy and toxic chemicals.

South Korea’s government has collected massive amounts of cellphone data to create a public map warning residents if they’ve come into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

In Israel, the high-tech firm NSO Group is promoting software that would assign every person a 1-to-10 ranking of how likely they are to carry the virus. NSO Group previously developed spyware known as Pegasus, which allows hackers to turn on a cellphone’s camera and microphone and to trawl through personal data and messages. NSO Group is being sued by WhatsApp after the malware was discovered on the phones of human rights activists and journalists, including a Saudi dissident close to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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