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Coronavirus, the Rise of Surveillance & the Importance of Access

Coronavirus, the Rise of Surveillance & the Importance of Access

Amidst a global pandemic and the rise of mass surveillance and government censorship, Status provides a private, pseudo-anonymous platform, end-to-end encryption by default, and access to growing public channels as an agnostic platform for information.

As the coronavirus grows as a global crisis, government agencies around the world rush to fight the spread of the highly contagious disease and dispel the growing sense of fear. Important and effective measures have been taken to protect the health of people including encouraging social distancing and stay-at-home orders. However, this has also provided a pretext for more extreme practices such as increased surveillance and outright information censorship.

While these agencies may justify surveillance and censorship as necessary measures, as presently constituted, essential and fundamental human rights are being disregarded – setting the stage for potentially disastrous long term effects. Access to truth cannot be denied, nor can the right to privacy be viewed as a luxury. It is incumbent on every individual and every organization to champion and safeguard these rights, or else the door to unlimited surveillance and totalitarian levels of censorship may be forever opened.

Unprecedented Surveillance

We are currently living in a situation the world has never seen. While there have been global pandemics in the past which have impacted the human population far worse than COVID-19, they did not coexist with the advanced technology we have today.

Over the past month, we have seen the use of city-wide camera footage to detect people outside, smartphone location data used to identify potential contact with the virus, and credit card and payment data indicating travel to high risk countries. In some countries, mandatory installation of software designed to classify citizens of a certain risk profile has been implemented. Health records are even being made public in an attempt to flatten the curve.

Government agencies are requesting data from platforms such as Facebook and Google to create aggregate information on virus trends.

The health and safety of people is of paramount importance. But we all must collectively understand what information, data, and surveillance tactics are being used against our volition. These measures must be kept in check as they raise questions as to what surveillance can and will be used in the future.

Will this level of surveillance pose a long term risk on personal liberty and erode our culture? Does exposing detailed information about a specific person or group of people lead to increased segregation, racism, xenophobia, or even physical danger?

Increased Censorship

Accurate information is crucial in these times. To understand what is actually happening. To understand precautionary measures. To know how to protect yourself, your family, and your  loved ones. Yet information censorship of all kinds has arisen over the coronavirus both in an attempt to salvage the appearance of government policies and avoid panic. We have seen this in countries where censorship is prominent as well as countries that tout freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

For example, the US considered enacting a policy seen in the 1980’s to dispel fear mongering about the AIDS epidemic. It would insist that government communications about coronavirus be vetted and potentially even censored.

If information is being blatantly censored, and in some circumstances citizens are prosecuted for the dissemination of news not inline with government policy, what can people actually trust?

Where can people get accurate, unmanipulated information?

Tools for human rights

Now is the time, more than ever, for privacy preserving, censorship resistant communication tools. Tools like Status, Telegram, Session, Signal among other privacy focused messengers can have a truly positive impact on preserving our right to privacy and open access to information.

With Status, not only are your messages end-to-end encrypted by default, unlike Telegram which only operates with e2ee in certain modes of operation, but it also works on a peer-to-peer messaging network that removes significant central points of failure. People can communicate directly with their loved ones with greater confidence that their information is not being spied on or used against them.

Beyond private messaging, Status introduces peer-to-peer public channels designed to prevent government censorship or third party manipulation altogether.

For example, the public channel #2019-nCoV serves as a broadcast of public messages from people around the world. People interested in sharing information about the spread of the virus, measures in place to flatten the curve, symptoms to look out for, and more.

People can trust that the content in these channels is not being censored by an authoritarian third party. Instead, people are free to share information of their choosing. They serve as aggregators of news from multiple sources. In fact, the channels are not owned and operated by any one party at all.

Finally, users of private chats and public channels alike can remain pseudonymous if they choose. Third party identity verification is not required when creating an account on Status. Status will never require a phone number, email address, or bank account for use.  This is crucial in places where freedom of speech is not a given liberty.

Get involved, install Status, join the public channel #2019-ncov, and help contribute to the free flow of information.

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