Is Data Privacy The Price We Must Pay to Survive a Pandemic?
In the fight against COVID19, billions of personal geo-location data points are being used by countries around the world to “flatten the curve” of contagion, in order to re-establish the circulation of people, and to better manage physical distancing among individuals. We are referring to the surveillance systems that several governments have begun using to track or trace individuals and their physical contacts (contact-tracing) to control the contagion. This use of technology can be controversial given the implications it has regarding privacy risks and the decisions about it that some countries are taking. If we understand data as a public good (non-rival and non-exclusive) necessary to improve and accelerate response in the midst of a pandemic, is it possible, then, to justify the relaxation of privacy standards? Does the goal of tracking and controlling contagion as a measure to ensure everyones health and re-establish some social normalcy justify the possibility of intrusive government surveillance?