COVID 19 Surveillance: Is Personal Privacy Overlooked?​​

Mariya Shahab and Nishant Bhardwaj
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India.

Volume III, Issue VI, 2020

Coronavirus surfaced in China in December 2019. Fast forward a few months, it had become a pandemic and WHO named it ‘COVID-19’. In an attempt to control this virus, the act of quarantine and the global lockdown has strictly been recommended and ardently followed worldwide.  It was also accompanied by digital surveillance to gain accurate ground-level information. WHO also provided guidelines for health-related surveillance. Comprehensive surveillance, Sentinel syndromic surveillance, Hospital-based SARI surveillance, Mortality surveillance, Virological sentinel surveillance, are some of the methods, to name a few. With the advancement of time, voices were heard citing the dangers associated with rising surveillance. The Right to privacy is a fundamental human right under International Law. The Right to Privacy for an individual is the right to keep secrets or obscures elements of their life from the public at large. It is a part of domestic law in many countries. The companies must also provide a way in which customers can review the data collected about them and control their usage. The right to privacy was held to be a fundamental right in India by nine judges of the Supreme Court in the celebrated judgment of K.S. Puttuswamy v. Union of India. However, these rights have been blatantly violated in many jurisdictions by governmental and private bodies. This paper analyses such violations and tests them through the lens of privacy laws. The conclusion is reached that surveillance measures must be least intrusive and should not be at the cost of basic human rights and must be time-bound. States must also ensure that data collected through apps should not leak to the outside agencies and peoples should have a say in their data that how and where it should be used or what they want to do with their data collected.

Keywords: Covid-19, Privacy & Surveillance.