May 1, 2020 / 6:54 PM / in 25 days

How Reuters journalists reported on cyber-intel firms pitching governments on spy tools to track coronavirus

This week, a Reuters special report revealed how a cyber-intelligence company from Israel and other firms are pitching governments to use spy tools to help trace coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Police officers monitor traffic on the streets from surveillance camera footages as Argentine President Alberto Fernandez announced an extension of the lockdown it has imposed as a measure to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Buenos Aires, Argentina April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Matias Baglietto/File Photo - RC2ODG93BMEA

The investigation, by Reuters journalists Christopher Bing, Joel Schectman and Jack Stubbs, reported that as governments around the world are fighting the spread of COVID-19, cyber-surveillance companies such as Cellebrite and NSO Group say that their technology that helps prevent terrorism and capture criminals can also help monitor coronavirus patients.   

On the report, Reuters journalist Joel Schectman said, “The three of us have worked together for years on cyber surveillance and cyber espionage coverage. When the lockdowns began in March, all three of us saw the COVID-19 pandemic as a potential bonanza for spyware companies that have long pushed for countries to take an even more aggressive approach in  monitoring their citizens.”

Schectman continued, “We were well-placed placed to dig into this subject because we had deep sourcing already in this area. And as soon as we began reaching out, we found that our hypothesis was correct: spyware firms were trying to seize billions of dollars in new business opportunities as countries struggled to find ways to contain the outbreak.”

In addition to the investigation, a Reuters graphic showed how countries are turning to technology to monitor the spread. Some are using voluntary “contact-tracing” apps. Spy firms say they should use mass surveillance instead. 

Schectman concludes saying, “This piece allowed us to utilize our national security backgrounds to address one critical aspect of this global crisis: a growing surveillance apparatus that will likely be here long after the pandemic fades.”

For more Reuters coverage on the coronavirus, please see here.

[Reuters PR Blog Post]

Media contact:

deepal . Patadia @thomsonreuters.com

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