COVID-19 controls turn Asia into global surveillance hotspot, analysts say

Asia has become the world's surveillance hotspot and is at risk of serious privacy breaches as measures rolled out to contain the spread of COVID-19 become permanent in many countries, researchers warned on Thursday.

The Right to Privacy Index (RPI) published by British-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, rated 198 countries for privacy violations stemming from mass surveillance operations, retention of personal data, home searches and other breaches.

According to the findings, Asia was the world's highest-risk region for violations with a deterioration in recent years.

"Asia as a region risks sleep-walking into serious privacy breaches if there isn't transparency when it comes to data use with respect to COVID-19 surveillance measures," said Sofia Nazalya, a human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

Asian countries scored worse on average than nations in other regions, Singapore-based Nazalya, the author of the study, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The pandemic has enabled authorities from China to Russia to increase surveillance and clamp down on free speech, digital rights experts say.

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