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ACLU warns fever-checking technology is privacy danger and may not be accurate

Temperature scanners may pose a danger to privacy, the American Civil Liberties Union warns.

The ACLU says the widespread use of thermal cameras and "non-contact infrared thermometers" -- known as NCITs -- intended to detect fevers in people from a distance could provide inaccurate readings.  As a result, it could prevent people from being allowed entry into locations or to travel, said the ACLU.

“There is a veritable gold rush of companies scrambling to put ‘fever detectors’ on the market and cash in on the crisis,” the ACLU said in recent white paper. “The result is accuracy levels that appear to be all over the map and a certain degree of snake oil.”

As states reopen, stores, warehouse and airports are turning to technology to detect signs of fever, which can be a symptom of COVID-19.

The most accurate thermal cameras can cost two to four times as much as a typical $15,000 system being installed now at airports, in stores and at warehouses.

The group says these devises are an “enormous invasion of privacy,” and the use of the technology could start to normalize collecting health information, including heart rates and breathing rates, according to the organization.

The ACLU has also raised questions about the practice of temperature checks in general, saying “temperature checks should not be deployed unless public health experts say conclusively that they will help.”