Even in the midst of a crisis, the public must carefully evaluate such government demands, because surveillance invades privacy, deters free speech, and unfairly burdens vulnerable groups. It also metastasizes behind closed doors. And new surveillance powers tend to stick around. For example, nearly two decades after the 9/11 attacks, the NSA is still conducting dragnet Internet surveillance.
Thus, when governments demand new surveillance powers—especially now, in the midst of a crisis like the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak—EFF has three questions:
– First, has the government shown its surveillance would be effective at solving the problem?
– Second, if the government shows efficacy, we ask: Would the surveillance do too much harm to our freedoms?
– Third, if the government shows efficacy, and the harm to our freedoms is not excessive, we ask: Are there sufficient guardrails around the surveillance?