Several countries around the world are using COVID as an excuse to employ technology to investigate individuals and collect their data - threatening their rights to privacy and freedom of speech.
Around 65 countries said they experienced eroding online freedoms as their governments used the pandemic as an excuse to suppress freedom of expression, according to The Freedom on the Net 2020 report released Oct. 14, according to CNN.
The report found around 30 countries had put restrictions on independent news reporters and at least 45 countries were arresting government critics.
In Bangladesh and Belarus, for example, the report said governments had blocked sites that report contradictory claims from news sources and arrested reporters who questioned their data. In Venezuela, opposition-created information is blocked and journalists who reported COVID-19 was widespread at health care facilities have been detained.
Some countries enforced internet shutdowns and have kept citizens uninformed about the pandemic. They withhold information about contact-tracing - which is important in limiting the spread of the disease.
Senior research analyst for technology and democracy at Freedom House, Allie Funk, found some governments' rigid monitoring of its citizens' online was "appalling" and was creating a climate of fear and self-censorship.
"People may be less likely to report certain issues because they don't want to face criminal penalties or they don't want to face targeted harassment or violence from pro-government supporters online," Funk said.