The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways we interact and has everyone thinking more about our health and well-being. With that shift in mind-set we have our ‘normal’ daily activities like grocery shopping, standing in an elevator, and going to the mall attached with even more surveillance.
The response by businesses and the technological industry to the coronavirus outbreak has raised many concerns about privacy from contact tracing apps, and mobile location data tracking. The outbreak has also brought new privacy issues, as companies operate surveillance with technology such as thermal cameras and facial recognition in preparation for when people return to their everyday lives.
Surveillance technology has slowly integrated into our daily lives, with facial recognition getting added as a “convenience” feature for applications and ordering food. The coronavirus has sped up that process, in the name of public health. Shopping centres have long used Bluetooth trackers to determine crowd sizes and whereabouts, and the pandemic has shifted its use to enable contact tracing.
The demand for surveillance technology like thermal scanners has spiked because of COVID-19. Earlier this year it was reported that FLIR Systems, which makes most of the world’s thermal cameras and the systems that Mantech Bahrain uses, saw its stock rise 60% because of increased demand!
Companies are using software to monitor employees working from home. Students are also being watched remotely through exam monitoring software. The technology is designed to provide for enforcement and tracking in public places like office buildings and airports. It was described in several scenarios where if someone with a fever had been detected, the facial recognition cameras would log who the person is, and security staff would be deployed.
It stands to reason that technology -both ours and that of other companies- is in fact saving lives in this situation.