Photo: Soumen Hazra

Embodied Surveillance During Covid-19 in India: A Feminist Perspective

– Observer Research Foundation

Radhika Radhakrishnan walks through several examples from India where public health security in the time of COVID-19, and personal privacy, collide

Radhakrishnan argues that contact tracing apps are unjustly making people’s information public, forced lockdowns are leading to increased incidents of domestic violence, and health workers are being attacked for undertaking COVID surveillance.

“The most common understanding of data in these frameworks is of a resource which is independent from our bodies and available for human exploitation; the new oil… Since we have different policies to protect our data and our bodies, this reduces the harms of surveillance that [Salim] experienced to data violations. But to capture the true extent of these harms, the body must be visibilised in constructions of data.”

Radhakrishnan further comments how such cases highlight the need for data protection policies to move away from simply protecting the resource to protecting the people whose data is being given, used, violated, or surveilled.

In all of the discussed cases here, surveillance undermines not just data privacy, but the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of individuals. While these violations are not new, they are now taking place in opaque digitally mediated ways that were not possible before

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