Surveillance, Privacy, and App Tracking
Burris, S., de Guia, S., Gable, L., Levin, D.E., Parmet, W.E., Terry, N.P. (Eds.) (2020). Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19. Boston: Public Health Law Watch
7 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2020
Date Written: July 31, 2020
Over the last several months, global innovators have developed a heterogenous array of “smart” technology protocols and applications aimed at tracking, tracing, and containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19. The United States, which has left it to the states to acquire or build their own automated track and trace platforms, currently lags behind other countries. However, technology companies Apple and Google have announced co-production of a digital tracing platform for their phones. As this Chapter details, the United States lacks a comprehensive federal health data privacy law that protects the privacy of sensitive information collected and stored by digital contact tracking applications. The Chapter also explains how digital COVID-19 surveillance applications work, assesses their effectiveness from a public health perspective, and enumerates the legal and ethical issues they implicate. It concludes with proposals aimed at maximizing the public health benefits of COVID-19 surveillance technology while minimizing its inherent and conceivable threats to privacy, civil liberties, and vulnerable populations.
This paper was prepared as part of Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19, a comprehensive report published by Public Health Law Watch in partnership with the de Beaumont Foundation and the American Public Health Association.
Keywords: public health, COVID-19, coronavirus, legal responses, pandemic, privacy, tracing
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