How the Pandemic Is Fueling New Infringements on Digital Rights

How the Pandemic Is Fueling New Infringements on Digital Rights
A man shows the contact tracing app Stayaway Covid on his cellphone, in Lisbon, Portugal, Sept. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Armando Franca).

Many aspects of our response to the coronavirus pandemic have relied on digital technology. Schools and workplaces are moving online, holding classes and meetings using virtual tools. Public health experts are using data analytics and contact tracing apps to slow the contagion. And in some cases, authoritarian governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to impose sweeping restrictions on their citizens that limit their scope for protests and other forms of criticism.

According to researchers at the watchdog group Freedom House, the implications of the pandemic for digital rights worldwide are bleak. The organization released a new report last month as part of an annual series looking at online freedoms, to document what it calls, “The Pandemic’s Digital Shadow.” This week on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by one of the report’s co-authors, Adrian Shahbaz, to discuss COVID-19’s indelible impacts on our online lives. Shahbaz is the director for technology and democracy at Freedom House. Click here to read a transcript of an excerpt from the interview.


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Relevant Articles on WPR:
Are Governments Sacrificing Privacy to Fight the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Across Central Asia, Police States Expand Under the Cover of COVID-19
Tech Giants Aren’t Doing Enough to Combat Misinformation About COVID-19
Amid China’s Coronavirus Lockdown, ‘People Don’t Believe in Government Anymore’

Trend Lines is edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdoerrie.

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