Privacy in Pandemic: Law, Technology, and Public Health in the COVID-19 Crisis

99 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2020 Last revised: 4 Jun 2021

See all articles by Tiffany C. Li

Tiffany C. Li

Yale Law School - Information Society Project; Yale Law School - Information Society Project; Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: September 9, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of deaths and disastrous consequences around the world, with lasting repercussions for every field of law, including privacy and technology. The unique characteristics of this pandemic have precipitated an increase in use of new technologies, including remote communications platforms, healthcare robots, and medical AI. Public and private actors are using new technologies, like heat sensing, and technologically-influenced programs, like contact tracing, alike in response, leading to a rise in government and corporate surveillance in sectors like healthcare, employment, education, and commerce. Advocates have raised the alarm for privacy and civil liberties violations, but the emergency nature of the pandemic has drowned out many concerns.

This Article is the first comprehensive account of privacy impacts related to technology and public health responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Many have written on the general need for better health privacy protections, education privacy protections, consumer privacy protections, and protections against government and corporate surveillance. However, this Article is the first comprehensive article to examine these problems of privacy and technology specifically in light of the pandemic, arguing that the lens of the pandemic exposes the need for both widescale and small-scale reform of privacy law. This Article approaches these problems with a focus on technical realities and social salience, and with a critical awareness of digital and political inequities, crafting normative recommendations with these concepts in mind.

Understanding privacy in this time of pandemic is critical for law and policymaking in the near future and for the long-term goals of creating a future society that protects both civil liberties and public health. It is also important to create a contemporary scholarly understanding of privacy in pandemic at this moment in time, as a matter of historical record. By examining privacy in pandemic, in the midst of pandemic, this Article seeks to create a holistic scholarly foundation for future work on privacy, technology, public health, and legal responses to global crises.

Keywords: privacy, public health, technology, privacy law, technology law, health law, education law, consumer law, surveillance, AI, Big Data, employment law, discrimination, robotics, coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, medicine, genetic privacy, student privacy

Suggested Citation

Li, Tiffany and Li, Tiffany, Privacy in Pandemic: Law, Technology, and Public Health in the COVID-19 Crisis (September 9, 2020). Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Volume 52, Issue 3 (2021)., Available at SSRN: or

Tiffany Li (Contact Author)

Yale Law School - Information Society Project ( email )

New Haven, CT

Yale Law School - Information Society Project ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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