Governmental surveillance has been exponentially increasing since 9/11. With Snowden’s revelations, people became significantly more aware of the dimension and expansion of mass governmental surveillance. In this presentation, we argue that it is important to discuss the implications of COVID-19 surveillance. Both direct and indirect surveillance measures have been adopted by governments. Regarding the direct ones, we have witnessed emergency state measures that enforce confinement and allow the police to control and track people’s movement. On the other hand, indirect surveillance has been vastly practiced through ICTs – enhanced with Artificial Intelligence capabilities. Surveillance is not neutral: it can be both constrainer and enabler to our action. Positive and/or negative dimensions of governmental surveillance can be intensified more in one direction than another, depending on governmental interests, purposes, and on the adopted measures. The ambivalence of surveillance can be easily exemplified with the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveillance of the disease is fundamental to fight the pandemic, but on the other hand, enhanced surveillance of individuals, as some governments are practicing in this context, may threaten political participation and democracy. Although in different ways, both direct and indirect surveillance measures can impact citizens’ rights, freedoms, and guarantees. Many countries are investing in the electronic surveillance of their citizens, although it would be important to know if there is enough empirical evidence on its efficiency in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of this paper is to reflect on the increasing challenges to political participation and democracy caused by increased surveillance in the COVID-19 context, taking into account the context and the different ways governments have been using surveillance, its potential consequences to civil and political rights, and the social inequalities revolving around surveillance measures.
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