Governments around the world have seized on the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to expand digital surveillance and harvest more data on their citizens, according to a report out Wednesday from Freedom House, a democracy and human rights research group.
Why it matters: Privacy advocates have warned since early in the pandemic that the tech behind efforts to conduct contact tracing and enforce quarantines and other public safety protocols could be abused and made permanent, particularly in authoritarian countries like China.
What’s happening, according to the report:
Dozens of countries have rolled out government-backed contact-tracing apps without effective laws to protect people from overly expansive data collection.
- China, Russia, India, Singapore, Ecuador and Bahrain were among the countries that Freedom House found implemented apps that either send reams of data unchecked to government servers or make invasive data and health documentation demands.
Governments in at least 28 countries censored websites and social media posts to suppress information like unfavorable health statistics and corruption allegations.
- Many have also imprisoned those who speak out online against government mishandling of the pandemic, and some have at times imposed total internet blackouts on their citizens.
By the numbers: As documented in a release summing up the findings:
Authorities censored reporting on the virus in 28 countries and arrested online critics in 45 countries.
In at least 20 countries, the pandemic was cited as a justification to impose vague or overly broad restrictions on speech. Residents of at least 13 countries experienced internet shutdowns…
In at least 30 countries, governments are invoking the pandemic to engage in mass surveillance in direct partnership with telecommunications providers and other companies.
— Freedom House
Of note: China was found to have the world’s worst conditions for internet freedom for the sixth consecutive year, but the U.S. was
DOYLESTOWN, PA — The Central Bucks School District will now begin adding new positive coronavirus cases to its website, Superintendent John Kopicki announced Monday.
The move comes as the district reports seven positive COVID-19 cases since Sept. 16, including six Central Bucks East students and one employee at Lenape Middle School.
“We are confident that this process will promote transparency within the wider school community while ensuring that affected individuals are provided with necessary information related to their personal health and well-being,” Kopicki wrote in a letter to families of Central Bucks students. “We will continue to enforce our mitigation procedures and monitor any new cases as outlined within our health and safety plan.”
Applying the criteria for close personal contacts as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, students, faculty or staff who came into close personal contact with a positive individual will be notified by the building principal and receive communication regarding when they may return to in-person instruction. Close personal contact is defined by the CDC as being within approximately 6 feet of an infected person for 15 or more minutes.
Anyone who came into close contact with an infected person may be hearing from a representative from the Bucks County Health Department as part of the contact tracing process.
Positive cases are being tracked on the district’s website here.
Brockton community center goes virtual, provides free, family friendly programming amid COVID – News – The Enterprise, Brockton, MA
The Brockton Family and Community Center first opened in North Middle School in January to offer free, family friendly programming to members of the community.
BROCKTON — With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the Brockton Family and Community Center to close its physical doors to the public just a couple months after its opening, providers at the center have gone virtual to continue serving the community.
The Brockton Family and Community Center first opened in North Middle School in January to offer free, family friendly programming to members of the community in the evenings and on weekends using CORI-approved providers. With the school anticipated to sit empty for over a year before renovations on the building begin, school officials and members of the community teamed up to use the space in the meantime for the community center.
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But the closure of nonessential businesses and organizations in March forced them to close and try moving operations online. Virtual offerings have included parenting classes and family engagement activities, support groups, assistance in applying for scholarships and financial aid, tutoring, robotics and resume help. When the building was open, other services included theater classes, English classes, pick-up basketball games and Zumba classes.
One virtual activity includes free yoga classes and one-on-one sessions by Johanne Barthold, an Ashtanga and hatha yoga provider. While she’s had a couple participants so far, Barthold said she’s trying to get the word out about her class, especially with the benefits yoga has with mindfulness and relaxation, providing non-strenuous physical activity and helping with conditions, such as
Are we all tired of talking about coronavirus yet? It has been the topic of conversation for most of 2020 – and rightly so, given the situation in recent months. And it seems like we will be talking about it for some months to come. We are staring down the barrel of increased restrictions, and facing a winter where Covid will be an ever-present threat.
While we wait, we can keep doing as advised: wash our hands, wear a mask, limit our contacts and hope that we don’t get a call from the HSE to say we have been in close contact with a confirmed case.
But what about the times when we can’t keep our distance? Or where ventilation is poor? Air quality is an issue when it comes to the transmission of Covid-19.
There are a number of options out there to try to disinfect the air, but not everything is suitable for continuous use around more vulnerable people. That is where Irish company Novaerus has stepped in, with the Protect 200.
The device claims to not only clean the air of harmful bacteria and pathogens such as viruses, mould spores or other volatile organic compounds, it kills them. And, as an added bonus, it also works on odours.
The Protect 200 keeps things simple. There are no apps to monitor, no remote controls, or displays to show you how the device is cleaning the air. You simply flip the switch on, and let it do its thing.
So what exactly is its “thing”?
Novaerus calls it NanoStrike technology, which makes it sound a bit sci-fi. But what it means is that it uses plasma technology to kill viruses and pathogens in the air. The air in the room is pulled into the machine, over plasma coils that
Alan Wilson/Creative Commons/TimInHonolulu/Twitter
- An amateur planespotter noticed E-6B Mercury planes flying and claimed they were a warning to America’s adversaries after President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
- In response, the Pentagon issued a statement saying the flights were routine.
- E-6B Mercury planes are designed to act as airborne command posts in the event of a nuclear war, ensuring the U.S. government can retain control of its nuclear forces after a nuclear strike.
An amateur planespotter caused a stir when he discovered a Pentagon aircraft that typically controls U.S. nuclear forces flying off the coast of Washington D.C. last week.
✈ You like badass planes. So do we. Let’s nerd out over them together.
Twitter user Tim Hogan (@TimInHonolulu) appeared to link the flight to President Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis on October 2, but other planespotters said the flight was completely ordinary. U.S. Strategic Command later confirmed the flights had been planned before Trump had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and that it had all been a coincidence.
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On October 2, Hogan announced that a E-6B Mercury plane was operating off the East Coast near Washington D.C. “I looked because I would expect them to pop up if [Trump] tests positive,” Hogan wrote. “It’s a message to the small group of adversaries with SLBMs and ICBMs.”
Here, “SLBMs” refers to submarine launched ballistic missiles, while “ICBMs” means intercontinental ballistic missiles. Russia, China, and North Korea all have ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S, and Russia and China both have SLBMs that are capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Hogan apparently implied that Strategic Command