The coronavirus pandemic has been a gateway to even more unjustified surveillance of our movements and our health. Schools, workplaces and hospitality businesses have been investing in thermal screening technology to prove that they’re ‘safe’ to open. But infrared scanners do not accurately measure core body temperature, unlike thermometers, and the MHRA has warned against their use. There is no evidence that processing this sensitive health data is making anyone safer.
Thermal surveillance represents yet another form of inaccurate, intrusive and unnecessary monitoring. Worse, they often combine other forms of surveillance like behavioural analysis and facial recognition, posing a real risk to rights.
There are a range of reasons a thermal scanner might detect a high temperature. Most devices aren’t precise enough to detect the subtle shifts in temperature that would indicate a fever.
Weather, certain medications, alcohol consumption, pregnancy, menstruation, high blood pressure and other conditions can all impact a person’s temperature reading. Many people will have to choose between disclosing sensitive personal information or being barred from venues.
No-one should be denied access to their workplace, school or travel due to dodgy technology.
Thermal screening has serious accuracy problems.
Claims that thermal cameras can detect fever are misleading – a camera can’t diagnose coronavirus and suggesting that they can keep students, workers and travellers safe only promotes a false sense of security.
One UK study found that temperature screening was just 0.78% effective at detecting coronavirus, and the medical regulator has made it clear: thermal screening doesn’t work and shouldn’t be used.
We’ve written to over 80 businesses, workplaces, schools, care homes, airports and hospitality venues, asking them to stop using thermal surveillance and to explain how they’re protecting sensitive data.
We won’t stop there. We’re planning on taking legal action to ensure that the spread of thermal surveillance stops here.
We’re contacting anyone using thermal surveillance to request evidence that they're complying with data protection law. If you have encountered thermal screening, please tell us about it.
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