Technology being misused by the government to curb liberty and free speech

Technology being misused by the government to curb liberty and free speech

What is the one thing that North Korea, Syria, and China lack which almost 150 +
Do countries enjoy in this world? Yes, it is “Democracy” in its true sense and spirit. Constitutional laws are nothing but hardly spoken words in these nations either explicitly or implicitly in the form of civil liberty and freedom of speech amongst others. The citizens of these nations are under massive surveillance by the government that act as watchdogs to demarcate national security. Adding much to the ado, Technology stands as an inevitable superpower aiding these nations to achieve greater heights in their endeavor to establish national security, which is apparently, repudiated by its own masses.

COVID-19 – An Excuse or a Solution?

With 9.1 million confirmed cases worldwide, surging constantly alongside the race to vaccine
attempted by most of the developed and developing countries, Health Ministries leave no stone unturned to eradicate this pandemic using trial and error methods and Technology serves the exact purpose.

As the New York Times rightly quotes, “As Coronavirus Surveillance Escalates, Personal
Privacy Plummets”, every realm has its own technologically enabled solution to combat the
COVID-19’s effects on its economy.
At a global level, South Korea aggregates data generated by surveillance-cameras, smartphone
location, and credit card purchase records to exactly predict the victims’ whereabouts to the
extent that one fears his/her privacy.
Israel passed new legislation by scrapping off the permit to be obtained by the security agency to

track mobile phones in order to deploy “invasive” measures which once was a counterterrorism act mentioned explicitly by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Infamous China has its own software application that automatically classifies each person with color code — red, yellow, or green indicating contagion risk to determine whether it is safe to enter public places. From Aarogya Setu in India to TraceTogether in Singapore, countries have insisted its citizens providing information by using wireless Bluetooth to enable ‘contact tracing’. Whether it is Taiwan which uses Electronic Fence to prevent quarantined people step out or any other nation which safeguards its economy through tech-enabled solutions, the fright remains of these becoming a permanent cause and effect for mass surveillance.

Policing by Law enforcement authorities

Hong Kong’s never-ending protests fearing that “one country two systems” might change after 2047, protestors have started using black umbrellas symbolizing the protection against digital eyes of Beijing’s tech-backed authoritarianism.

As part of anti-government measures, Hong Kong citizens are in constant rivals with the police department who supposedly uses smart lamp posts, and CCTV’s to arrest people and to gain access to their digital communications.

Hong Kong is just a fraction of technology in the hands of police departments (PD) when
compared to the developed regions of the world. The United States of America has driven far
down the line of technology starting from the usage of drones to evolving Biometrics, state PD’s have their own state-of-art strategies to emerging crimes.
Body cams with high resolution, clear audio, and wider fields of vision are ubiquitous these days which signals when an officer is down facilitating the police to exonerate themselves from false claims. Besides the benefits, it caters to huge expenditures while acting as an intrusive Brother.

Potential Crime Prevention techniques that use Facial Recognition Software offers a high
degree of inaccurate results when algorithms incorrectly match faces with those of innocent.
Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) that is extensively used by toll booths for
collection of tariff is the exact same technology used by PD’s to track stolen cars and impose fine for breaching traffic regulation or even to monitor “Amber Alerts”. These cameras are fixed upon streetlights, drones, intersections, and directly transmits the information to central criminal databases revealing the suspects’ whereabouts.

Biometrics is advancing since its introduction in the form of fingerprints. In addition to DNA,
the Police have been using voice recognition, palm prints, wrist veins, iris recognition, gait
analysis, and even heartbeats to reveal identity within seconds. The Federal Bureau of
Investigation has developed the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system of databases
containing an electronic repository of biometric and criminal history.

Just like bots are disrupting various industries, there are self-driven police cruisers equipped with AI to catch violators of traffic rules. Thermal imaging captures images in dark spaces when a heat wave has been generated which might come handy in Amber Alerts to rescue victims either of snowstorm or fire alarms.

Legally, these strategies might prove to be efficient to Police Departments as these are widely
known by masses but Policing can also utilize Stingrays which are nothing but fake mobile
towers to gather data directly and secretively from individuals’ mobile phones. Endless
possibilities of technology in the hands of police might act maliciously beyond a certain extent.

Although these are currently tested and tried in The USA, it has a great possibility of spreading to the rest of the world in the coming decades.

Electronic Monitoring – Alternative to Jail

EM has been widely used across Europeans and Americans as an alternative to Jail. Electronic Monitoring is the surveillance of the yet-to-be criminal or convicted criminals at the comfort of their homes and workplaces with certain restrictions as to the prevention of drugs and strict timings during the period of surveillance enabling them to pursue their profession despite being convicted. EM cuts the cost to the government authorities on a large scale while in America, it has been a pre-trial measure. Algorithms that are being used in technologies are mostly leading to clear Racial Bias in America since they are based on questions like How many times a person is being convicted, How often is under surveillance, amongst others and the results to these are apparent as the ratio of African-Americans exceeds the whites in all cases.

Hence, misleading even to the extent of losing lives as it is today spurring movements across the globe, instigating the Human-Rights activists.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) raises time-to-time concerns regarding injustice to
protect civil liberties and the various rights provided in the U.S. Constitution.
Two-Edged Sword. While China is in the process to allow a social credit score to every single citizen based on their personal and political moves online and offline, curbing outrightly the basic liberties in a so-called democratic nation, the rest of us are privileged to enjoy what we have today. Albeit, technology calls for new regulations in the hand of law-makers and restricted yet transparent usage in the hands of Police officials and other law enforcement position holders around the world considering the recommendations made by The Freedom House.


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