Coronavirus monitoring technologies were previously tested to monitor refugees
Many of the technologies used to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including monitoring and analysing social media posts, telecommunications location data, and the use of sensors, were first tested on refugees during the 2015 crisis and are now being repurposed in the name of public health. In 2019, the European border security agency Frontex published a €400,000 tender for social media analysis services hoping to better predict future migration patterns; the tender was withdrawn after an earlier social media monitoring programme from tghe European Asylum Support Office was shut down by the European Data Protection Supervisor. Originally, many of these technologies were used to help humanitarian groups provide food, shelter, and other aid to refugees; within the EU the interest appeared to be more to identify migrants en route and prevent their entry. Among those offering technical assistance were the European Space Agency, GMV, and CGI. These ideas of using big data analytics to predict hotspots are now being repurposed for the pandemic; however, experts argue that the money and focus would be better spent on building response capacity within health care systems. GDPR appears to be inadequate to protect privacy in these conditions, where the combination of seemingly unrelated data can be hard to mitigate for small, vulnerable groups.
Writer: Crofton Black
Publication: Bureau of Investigative Journalism