Privacy in the Age of Corona
In mid-May, the MIT Sloan School of Business Administration’s Management Review released a column entitled: “AI, Robot, and Ethics in the Age of COVID-19”. The paper discusses the effect COVID-19 has had in accelerating the adoption of automation and location data analytics and reviews the ethical concerns raised by these moves. The authors believe global adoption of such tools is inevitable due to their value in fighting the pandemic, however, they add these tools will not disappear once the current crisis has been dealt with. Other publications have taken a rather more alarmist tone towards this widespread application of location tracking and contact tracing measures, often comparing these expansion of state powers to the post 9/11 “War on Terror”; invoking the memory of abuses of state power exposed in the decades since.
As additional countries begin adopting their own measures, their populations express concerns over security flaws and privacy issues – In India, the government has made the controversial move of making installation of its “Aarogya Setu” contact tracing app mandatory for public employees, train travellers, and people living in risk areas. A move which has met with legal and public resistance, as well as limited success in forcing the app’s installation despite the governments use of fines and threats of jail. In South Korea, the divulgence of personal details of COVID-19 patients such as their sexual orientation has led to a public debate of the limits of the government’s need or right to share citizens’ identifying information. In Israel, the adoption of widespread tracking and tracing measures, as well as possibly over-zealous enforcement by police, has led to a long and yet unfinished legal battle regarding the limits and terms of the measures being used. The Israeli public has also responded by developing new methods for expressing their dissent.
Thankfully, there has been some work done to try and codify basic guidelines for the implementation of such measures in a way that respects and protects the public’s privacy. The most notable such attempt is “The GSMA COVID-19 Privacy Guidelines”, a relatively short document which provides context for regulators and planners, as well as links to more in depth reviews of specific topics and related issues (e.g. Privacy and big data analytics). Another useful tool is this memo released by the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s Privacy Protection Authority which provides a handy link to English versions of the authority guidelines and recommendations relating to the implementation of location tracking, quarantine enforcement, and contact tracing.
Of course, the specifics of each nation’s regulatory situation and network capabilities may differ, which is why the decision on which measures to adopt, how to implement, and what level of anonymization and protection to apply, needs to be adapted to the specific case. If you are currently considering the application of such measures in your country, please feel free to contact us at Septier for advice and support.