COVID-19 Surveillance

69 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020

See all articles by Emily Berman

Emily Berman

University of Houston Law Center

Leah Fowler

University of Houston Law Center

Jessica L. Roberts

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: August 3, 2020

Abstract

Any successful pandemic response involves tracking the spread of disease. In this regard, contact tracing is nothing new. What differentiates COVID-19 surveillance is its unprecedented use of technology. The potential for continuous and near-universal digital contact tracing has raised concerns about privacy and civil liberties more readily associated with national security surveillance, chilling the uptake of disease-tracking technologies in the United States. Yet public health surveillance and national security surveillance are two distinct paradigms with different values and governing norms. Ideally, public health surveillance is cooperative, minimizes data collection, and limits subsequent use. National security surveillance, by contrast, operates coercively, maximizes data collection, and imposes relatively few limits on the use of lawfully collected data. At first blush, digital contact tracing resembles national security surveillance because both depend heavily on technology. Yet despite these superficial similarities, COVID-19 surveillance is a public health initiative. This Article asks the important and novel question: Can we use technological tools similar to those found in national security surveillance while cultivating the trust necessary for successful public health surveillance? We respond with a cautiously optimistic yes and offer our recommendations.

Keywords: COVID-19, Public Health, National Security, Surveillance, Privacy, Civil Liberties, Technology

Suggested Citation

Berman, Emily and Fowler, Leah and Roberts, Jessica L., COVID-19 Surveillance (August 3, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3666300 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3666300

Emily Berman

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

100 Law Center
Suite 210 TUII
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

Leah Fowler

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

Jessica L. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4800 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
United States

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