The results of social distancing: increased reliance on online communication and risks to data privacy

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Thu, 03/26/2020 - 5:30pm
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As every level of government leverages its powers to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, this includes some efforts that cause concerns among online privacy advocates and social justice advocates. For example, there are reports of increased surveillance and GPS tracking for the enforcement of stay-at-home orders, governments and social media sites censor content and information, the U.S. Department of Justice requesting the ability to detain people indefinitely without trial and the potential for more authoritarian actions that aren't medically necessary, 

The U.S. government is conferring with tech companies like Google, Facebook and Clearview AI about ways to access location tracking data from smartphones and to engage facial recognition software for tracking purposes. Other countries, like Israel, Singapore and Australia have already implemented location tracking.

For those workers who can do their jobs remotely, and for school children, online conferencing software has become essential for continued function, though with it comes the potential for online privacy breaches, hacks of personal data and mass surveillance of communication.

Lindsay Oliver is with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and spoke with KBOO about the risks to data privacy during the pandemic.

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