Cyprus Mail
Letters Opinion

Cyprus and privacy in the time of Covid

It will soon be reaching five years since I moved to our beautiful island, a life-changing decision I never regretted. Still, I feel I have to share my opinion about the measures that the government has been enforcing during the last year or so.

Setting aside the confusing and potentially illicit set of rules, I would like to focus your attention on a matter that, as a country part of the EU, cannot be taken lightly: privacy.

The government of the RoC has been enforcing on every person living on the island an SMS-based system which collects data about them on a daily basis, without any right or choice to opt out.

Data being collected are known to you all:

Passport/ID number which identifies you as an individual, therefore provides information about your citizenship and potentially plenty of data (including name, surname, DoB, residency, especially if you are a European citizen, and all your data that are stored in any government database on the island);

Home postcode which exposes where you live;

Reason to go out, may this be supermarkets, pharmacy or simply going out to do some sport;

This mass-collection of data can and has been used instead as a tool to analyse where and when people of Cyprus spend most of their time.

I don’t mean to say that this is a totally unreliable method to contain the spread but everything comes at a cost. In this case the cost is our right to privacy.

The simple fact of being a citizen, a resident or simply a person living on this island doesn’t subscribe or mandate me or anyone else to be subjected to this.

If, instead, this sounds right to you, we might as well be living in a black mirror-like dystopian world, in which police and government get along to take advantage of their people and violate their basic human rights (yes, privacy is a human right, says the EU)

The only way to “escape” this control is printing out a paper form (but snap! you are only allowed to do so for business reasons or you are 65+).

These practices are also extended to Covid tests, in which personal data related to a medical test are stored god knows where, without people being provided with any privacy policy (or any information to whom I can request a data deletion or the so-called, right to erasure). Oh, and yes, recurrent rapid tests are mandatory if you work in any business on the island.

Local companies and banks would have been fined by the Cyprus commissioner of data protection (EDPB) for way less.

I say that’s enough of this nonsense and it’s time to change how things work.

After all, all are equal before the law. Even the government itself, isn’t that right?

 

Simon Picchioni

 

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