COVID-19 and Contact Tracing Apps: Technological Fix or Social Experiment?
8 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020 Last revised: 12 May 2020
Date Written: April 10, 2020
Mobile applications are increasingly regarded as important tools for an integrated strategy of post-lockdown policy response around the globe. This paper explores how the use of smartphone applications for digital contact tracing is currently being framed by media, experts and policy-makers and discusses a number of questions raised by the debate on digital surveillance at the time of Covid-19: How can personal data be adequately collected and protected? Who should access data? What is a legitimate role for Big Tech companies in the development and implementation of these systems? How is the cultural and moral context taken into account in the design of these apps? Should use of these apps be compulsory? What does transparency and ethical oversight mean in this context? As we show that responses to these questions are complex and uncertain, we argue that rather than technological fixes to the current emergency these apps should be introduced in society as societal experimental trials whose effectiveness and consequences need to be closely and independently monitored the same level of precaution and safeguards that social experimentation require.
Keywords: digital contact tracing, ethics, tracking apps, COVID-19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation