More than 100 organizations are concerned about excesses of digital surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Some measures have been taken to facilitate access to digital services and video surveillance systems, such as the authorization to use portable video surveillance cameras, installed in Public Security Police drones, during the State of Emergency.

And there may be external pressures, from Europe, for the use of smartphone metadata, although everything indicates that the Government is not considering it at the moment.

Questioned by SAPO TEK, Eduardo Santos admits that he is not aware of situations of overuse in Portugal.

But he warns that "In general, we must also maintain a critical spirit about all technological solutions that are advanced as if they were a solution.

Technology is a tool.

is not an end in itself.

It can help political actors, but it can also become an obstacle ".

The options extend beyond technology and the various factors have to be considered. "Although for us the technology used and the way the tool works is crucial, the truth is that judging the merits of choosing a particular technological tool implies taking due account of external aspects of the technology itself, which may ultimately determine its inefficiency. ".

Despite the news that came from Brussels, the president of D3 says that, even when he knows, the Government has no plans to monitor people by mobile phone.

Regarding the use of mobile surveillance cameras and drones, "we are sorry to see that the police forces and the Ministry of Internal Affairs continue to be a little east of the legal and constitutional regime for the use of surveillance over citizens.

Once again, the forces police did not demonstrate the need for these measures, CNPD did well to reject the request for deferral in the terms in which it was presented, allowing only in relation to the Ovar case and issuing conditions for the use of these technologies in the rest of the country – it remains to be seen fulfilled ".

It also recalls that the nests for demonstrating the need for measures are the responsibility of the police forces, and this presupposes that they are able to demonstrate that there are no other measures that are equally effective and less harmful to people's rights, to achieve the same ends.

But he stresses that "we have a lot of reservations about whether the use of drones meets these conditions"

Organizations' recommendations to governments to guarantee human rights

In the document signed by the organizations, the Governments were asked not to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with increased digital vigilance, unless several conditions were met, which we reproduce here:


The surveillance measures adopted to deal with the pandemic must be legitimate, necessary and proportionate.

They must be provided for by law and justified by legitimate public health objectives, as determined by the appropriate public health authorities, and be proportionate to those needs.

Governments must be transparent about the measures they are taking so that they can be scrutinized and, if necessary, subsequently modified, revoked or canceled.

We cannot allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be an excuse for massive and indiscriminate surveillance.


If governments extend the powers of control and surveillance, those powers must be limited in time, and only last as long as is necessary to face the current pandemic.

We cannot allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be an excuse for a surveillance that does not have its end defined in time.


States should ensure that greater collection, retention and aggregation of personal data, including health data, is used only for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The data collected, retained, and aggregated to respond to the pandemic must be limited in scope, limited in time with reference to the pandemic and must not be used for commercial or any other purposes.

We cannot allow the COVID-19 pandemic to serve as an excuse to undermine the individual's right to privacy.


Governments should make every effort to protect people's data, including ensuring sufficient security for any personal data collected and any devices, applications, networks or services involved in the collection, transmission, processing and storage of that data.

Any claims that the data is anonymous should be based on evidence and supported by sufficient information on how anonymization was carried out.

We cannot allow attempts to respond to this pandemic to be used as a justification for compromising people's digital security.


Any use of digital surveillance technologies in COVID-19 response, including big data and artificial intelligence systems, must take into account the risk that these instruments will facilitate discrimination and other abuses against the rights of racial minorities, people living in the poverty and other marginalized populations, whose needs and realities can be hidden or distorted in large data sets.

We cannot allow the COVID-19 pandemic to further widen the gap in the enjoyment of human rights between different groups in society.


If governments enter into data sharing agreements with other entities in the public or private sector, these should be done on the basis of the law, and the existence of these agreements and the information necessary to assess their impact on privacy rights and human rights must be publicly disclosed – in writing, with sunset clause, public oversight and other default safeguards.

Companies involved in government efforts to combat COVID-19 must take appropriate steps to ensure that they respect human rights, and ensure that any intervention is shielded from other business and commercial interests.

We cannot allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be an excuse to hide from people what information governments are collecting and sharing with third parties.


Any response must incorporate safeguards and safeguards against abuse.

Added surveillance efforts related to COVID-19 do not fall within the sphere of security information services and must be subject to effective supervision by the respective independent supervisory bodies.

In addition, individuals considered should be given the opportunity to know and challenge any measures related to COVID-19 that are intended to collect, aggregate, retain and use data.

Anyone who has been subject to surveillance must have access to effective means of redress.


Responses related to COVID-19 that include data collection efforts should include means that allow free, active and meaningful participation by stakeholders, in particular experts from the public health sector and from the most marginalized population groups.