69 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020
Date Written: August 3, 2020
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
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