As the COVID19 pandemic spreads around the world, a range of surveillance techniques have been implemented widely to combat the virus and the tremendous new challenges it poses for all. Indeed, fighting a pandemic is considered a legitimate aim of surveillance under international law. But how to make sure that the surveillance targets the disease, or the virus, and not the people who may or may not be carrying it?
The question is important, as communities at the margins are often impacted disproportionately by surveillance: when it doesn't take inequalities into account, surveillance tends to reproduce, and even deepen, their marginalisation, rather than leading to an improvement in their lives - even during a pandemic.
Through research and other initiatives, we have therefore attempted to understand how to ensure the interests of these communities are fully taken into account in any surveillance measures to battle the pandemic, and have made a range of recommendations accordingly.
Understanding bodies, data and embodied experiences of surveillance and control during COVID-19 in India
Disembodied constructions of data as a resource erase connections between data and people’s bodies and make surveillance seem innocuous. In contrast, this research study adopts a feminist bodies-as-data approach, to pinpoint the specific, embodied harms of surveillance during COVID-19 in India. Starting from lived experiences of marginalised communities whose voices are often left out in debates on data protection, it shows that surveillance undermines not just data privacy, but more importantly, the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of individuals.
Profiling India’s emergent ecosystem of networked technologies to tackle Covid-19
How useful have apps, drones, online portals, and the National Migrant Information System been to tackle Covid-19 from a public health perspective? To what extent have they impacted social control? And how have marginalised people been affected in particular? This research study maps the deployment of these technologies and the evidence available so far of their usefulness to tackle the crisis.