March 28, 2020
Everything that kept governments from openly doing whatever they want to people can now be dismissed with a simple, short sentence.
That sentence is “but the coronavirus tho.”
The UK government has today been granted permission to use personal data from citizens’ mobile phones in an attempt to help tackle the spread of coronavirus.
British privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office is allowing the authorities to use private information to track and monitor the public’s behaviour.
It comes after it was revealed last week the government was interested in using mobile phones to see if people are observing the social distancing guidelines.
Privacy advocates say the move is extremely concerning and have called for clear time limits on the extended powers to stop the government spying on individuals.
Previously it was reported the government was interested in using the data to create movement maps of individuals and groups, with a 12- to 24-hour delay.
It is thought this would allow law enforcement to find hotspots of people flouting the lockdown and discover how thoroughly the public is adhering to the new guidelines.
Some campaigners are concerned that the move could be a slippery slope and see restrictions on individuals’ expectation of privacy.
Ray Walsh, Digital Privacy Expert at ProPrivacy, told MailOnline: ‘Revelations that the UK’s ICO has approved the use of UK phone data in the fight against coronavirus are extremely concerning with regards to personal privacy.
‘The newly approved rules give the government permission not only to use aggregated data to ascertain hotspots where people are congregating and potentially spreading Covid-19, but also to use personal device-level data that could reveal their exact location.
‘These kinds of provisions are far-reaching surveillance expansions that individual users ought to be informed about directly before and not after their personal data is collected.
‘These surveillance measures are going to change the way we live forever unless specific time limits are set to ensure the government cannot keep spying on people once the pandemic is over.’
According to the rules of Progress and the laws of Consent, this is officially RAPE.
When people bought their phones, they didn’t consent to buy a device that would spy on them — they just consented to buy a phone.
Changing the rules now is exactly the same as if a woman was having sex with Brad Pitt, only for Brad Pitt to suddenly turn into Harvey Weinstein.
The ICO’s primary function is to ensure the privacy of consumers, and has dished out fines of millions of pounds to the likes of British Airways and the hotel chain Marriott for data breaches.
‘The safety and security of the public remains our primary concern,’ said the ICO spokeswoman.
The extent to which the government will use personal data remains unknown but other countries have taken similar measures to varying degrees.
Privacy is not the same as safety and security.
But now, every attempt to keep the government out of people’s lives will be countered with “but we have to save people’s lives!”
We’ve entered a new era.