Privacy, Ethics, and Contact-tracing Apps
Teresa Scassa, Jason Millar and Kelly Bronson, "Privacy, Ethics, and Contact-tracing Apps", in C.M. Flood, V. MacDonnell, J. Philpott, S. Thériault and S. Venkatapuram, eds. Vulnerable: The Law and Policy of COVID-19, University of Ottawa Press, 2020.
8 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 14, 2020
Data and analytics are being enlisted to play a role in understanding and preventing the spread of COVID-19. This chapter focuses on digital “apps,” which are being deployed by governments around the world to supplement the manual contact-tracing efforts typically performed by public health officials. Contact-tracing apps have been developed rapidly, with little time for user testing, and their adoption raises important privacy and ethical concerns. In this chapter, we outline some of these potential concerns. We begin by tracing the history of contact-tracing as a pre-digital, or manual, method and then detail the current contract-tracing efforts, distinguishing among different types of apps and data use approaches. We then draw from our complementary expertise in law, ethics, and sociology to outline potential risks of contract-tracing apps along these dimensions. Risks include misuse of personal data for surveillance and insufficient uptake leading to inaccurate information for individuals, which could lead to increased infection. Risks also include differential access and thus the reproduction of vulnerability among marginalized communities. Overall, the chapter identifies issues relevant to the responsible development and use of big data and AI for COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Keywords: COVID-19, ethics, privacy, contact-tracing, contact-tracing app
JEL Classification: k10, k19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation