You may have heard of as a way of dealing with the coronavirus.

Finding out all the places a sick person has been and who they’ve been in touch with is not a new practice in disease control. 

What is new – and happening at an enormous scale – is that governments are asking or requiring citizens to download mobile phone apps with which they can be tracked.

Many national plans to loosen lockdown restrictions involve some form of surveillance.

We know that our governments want to collect data on us, ostensibly to help keep us safe during this pandemic. 

What else do we need to know?

How do we weigh up the potential benefit to society against the potential risks to our privacy? 

Is privacy the main issue at stake or are other values under threat?

Is there a global standard worth aiming for, or is privacy as much about culture as it is about rights?

For our we have invited academics, journalists, activists, technologists and legal experts to work with us. In collaboration, we’re building a database of surveillance policies being introduced all over the world.

From 17:00 - 19:30 CEST / 08:00 PST – 10.30 PST on 27 May, we have a line-up of experts who are joining us to share their knowledge with us during this chat.

Our confirmed guest experts

Renata Avila is a Guatemalan human rights lawyer specialised in intellectual property and technology. She is 2020 Stanford Race and Technology Fellow at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity in partnership with the Stanford Institute of Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. She is also executive director of Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente, a non-profit organisation based in Santiago, Chile working to promote informed citizen actions and government accountability. Ask Renata about: technological challenges to preserve and advance our rights, the politics of data and their implications on trade, democracy and society (@avilarenata)

Amelia Andersdotter, former Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Pirate Party. Amelia is chairperson at Sverige, a Swedish NGO that is oriented towards the continuous improvement of privacy and data protection in law and technology. Ask Amelia about: how lockdown impacted privacy, and how data collection and processing as a catch-all solution to all problems is not isolated to global pandemics (@teirdes)

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, based in London. He has over 20 years of experience doing research, campaigning and advocacy on anti-terrorism powers, surveillance, identity systems, and corporate data exploitation. Ask Gus about: how governments use their emergency powers when it comes to crisis-tech, and how his organisation, Privacy International, approaches topics such as tech, regulation, and innovation (@GusHosein)

Dima Samaro is a Middle East and North Africa (Mena) policy associate at Access Now, promoting human rights activism on the internet in the Mena region. Previously, Dima was a legal researcher at the International Commission of Jurists in Tunisia, researched the political participation of Palestinian women at King’s College London. Ask Dima about: the lack of safeguarding of personal data under privacy laws across the Mena region (@dimasamaro)

Adrian Shahbaz is research director for technology and democracy at Freedom House. He oversees Freedom on the Net, an annual report examining internet access, censorship, and surveillance in 65 countries. Ask Adrian about: how governments are collecting data, why privacy matters, and what policies can help regulate surveillance (@adrianshahbaz)  

Julie Posetti is an Australian expert on privacy, surveillance & journalism in the digital age, with both a PhD and UN-published book on the topic. Julie also explores these issues through her work as global director of research at the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), and as a Unesco consultant and journalist. Ask Julie about: the challenges of targeted and mass surveillance, in particular towards journalists amidst a Covid-19 ‘disinfodemic’, and how individuals can think about their rights with regards to privacy (@julieposetti)

Paul-Olivier Dehaye is the Director of PersonalData.IO and is on the board of MyData Global, two non-profits working on personal data rights and empowerment. He is a mathematician by training. Ask Paul about: the utility and multifaceted risks of using personal data in the context of a pandemic, and the power move by Google and Apple over contact tracing apps (@podehaye)

Radhika Jhalani is volunteer counsel at Software Freedom Law Center, India ( Ask Radhika about internet disruptions, free speech rights and surveillance in India

Jaap-Henk Hoepman is associate professor of computer science at the Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, working for the iHub, the interdisciplinary research hub on Security, Privacy, and Data Governance. He is also an associate professor in IT Law at the University of Groningen. Ask Jaap-Henk about the impact of technological developments on our society, and how the systems we commonly use could be designed in a much more privacy friendly way (@xotoxot)

Seda Gürses is associate professor in the department of Multi-Actor Systems at TU Delft at the Faculty of Technology Policy and Management, and an affiliate at the COSIC Group at the Department of Electrical Engineering (ESAT), KU Leuven. She is a member of Constant VZW, Alternatif Bilisim Dernegi, an association based in Turkey working on digital rights, and the Institute for Technology in the Public Interest. Ask Seda about: privacy enhancing and protective optimisation technologies (PETs and POTs), privacy engineering, as well as questions around software infrastructures, social justice and political economy as they intersect with computer science (@sedyst @tudelftTBM)

Michele Loi is a Senior Researcher at the University of Zurich. He has worked as a consultant for the World Health Organisation, putting together experts’ and stakeholders’ input on both the ethics of the response to epidemics of infectious diseases and the ethics of public health surveillance. Ask Michele about: the ethics and politics of responses to the Covid-19 crisis via digital means, of medical data sharing, cybersecurity and algorithms (when it comes to fairness and transparency, individual and mass privacy).

Julie Owono is the executive director of Internet Sans Frontieres, based in Paris. The organisation is currently challenging French parliamentarians who are going to vote on the Stop Covid app, developed by the French government. Ask Julie about: ‘the normalisation of the most repressive practices in democracies, and why this will affect the rest of the world, while recognising that the last decade has laid the foundations for this normalisation’ (@JulieOwono)

Gurshabad Grover manages legal and technical research on censorship and surveillance in the internet governance team at the Centre for Internet and Society, India. Ask Gurshabad about about the Indian government’s surveillance and censorship measures in response to Covid-19, Aarogya Setu (the contact tracing app introduced by the Government of India), and the possible adverse effects of such state surveillance and censorship on public health outcomes (@GurshabadGrover)

Lotte Houwing is researcher and policy advisor at the Dutch digital rights NGO Bits of Freedom, where she focuses on state surveillance and its effect on the power relationship between people and the state. Previously she coordinated a coalition in strategic litigation on the new Dutch Intelligence and Security Services Act and worked for the Security, Technology and e-Privacy research group at the University of Groningen. Ask Lotte about the effects of (mass) surveillance on democratic rights and how to stand up for them (@Lot_ten)

Manuel Beltrán is an artist, activist and technologist. As founder of the Institute of Human Obsolescence he has been exploring the socio-political and economic implications of the relationship between humans and technology, and the economic and governance models behind the production of data. In 2019, he founded the Persuasion Lab (, where he investigates new infrastructures of propaganda on social media. Ask Manuel about: how Big Tech is exploiting the pandemic to accelerate the private takeover of publicly owned infrastructures such as healthcare, education etc (@beltrandroid)

Mariana Valente is one of the directors of InternetLab, based in São Paulo, Brazil, a think tank working on the intersection of technology and human rights. She works with women’s rights in the digital environment, privacy and data protection, and access to information, knowledge and culture. Ask Mariana about the risks for privacy and democracy in the use of geolocation data and contact tracing apps in response to Covid-19, and the contradictions in how privacy and data protection discussions have developed in the past few months in Brazil (@mrnvlnt)

Mohammad Fakhruddin Bhuiyan is a journalist and human rights activist specialised in digital rights, internet governance, and freedom of expression. He previously worked for Article 19’s Bangladesh and South Asia section, and at The Asian Age, a Bangladeshi daily, covering ICT & telecommunications in Bangladesh, with a special focus on minority rights including LGBTQ groups. He holds a BSS & MSS in communications and journalism from the University of Chittagong (@mehedi72)

Babusi Nyoni is the founder of Sila Health, a healthcare startup that provides last-mile health care access across Africa using chat platforms and creates comprehensive datasets to advance healthcare in the region. He works in artificial intelligence and big data innovation with a particular focus on developing solutions for Sub-Saharan African communities. Ask Babusi about ethical innovation for impoverished communities and the private sector’s role in protecting the rights of the vulnerable (@babusinyoni)

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