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Covid surveillance tech remains open to exploitation

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During the pandemic, governments all over the world rolled out data tracking technologies, especially contact-tracing apps.

According to technology policy experts, these technologies opened opportunities for corporations and governments to harvest data without people’s consent.

Related: ? Covid-19 ushers in a new wave of privacy and free speech threats

In early June, it was revealed that the government of the Australian state of Victoria used a data agency to track the everyday activities of Victorians, beyond what was required for Covid.

According to The Herald Sun, Insights Victoria, the data agency the government used, collected sensitive, public, and “commercial-in-confidence” data in an effort to be the “single truth source” for the government. Victoria Premier Dan Andrews’ staff, the police chief commissioner, the emergency management commissioner, and the chief health officer had full access to the data.

The questionable data collection was revealed following calls to ditch the Information Sharing Bill 2021, which would have compromised patients’ privacy through the creation of a system “where a person’s most private medical information can be shared on an electronic database without their consent.”

And in May, Human Rights Watch said that 89% of technologies used for remote learning harvested the learning, location, and personal data of students. In Australia, most of these apps, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Minecraft Education remained in use even after Covid measures were lifted, Epoch reported.

RelatedThe COVID era ushered in a new wave of worker surveillance

The Director of Tech Policy at Reset Australia, Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, said that, during the pandemic, multiple data extraction technologies were launched under the guise of “emergency measures.” She added that these technologies do not come with sufficient data protection measures or well-defined purpose limitations. Therefore, they can be abused.

“There’s no kind of public engagement about what the citizen feels comfortable with in terms of how the government is using that data,” she told The Epoch Times.

“And because of the power differential between institutions and individual citizens, data is used and abused. And we see really dire consequences as a result.”

“We are living in an economy where data is one of the most valuable resources any institutional entity can actually capture,” she added.

“Government, like corporations, has been trying to fly under the radar and extract as much data as possible.

“But I think more and more, particularly with the pandemic, people are starting to understand, oh, governments and corporations are actually quite intertwined when it comes to the value chain of data extraction.”

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