Commentary: Gathering data through COVID-19 tracking apps can result in discrimination & violations of the right to privacy

Author: Isabel Ebert, Cambridge Core, Published on: 26 March 2020

"Tracking COVID-19: Privacy, health, and private power," 26 March 2020

Some governments are considering tracking citizens’ movements using location data... Now, companies might face the dilemma of whether or not to comply with COVID-19 related government request for user data, in particular location data that might result in privacy infringements... So far, many of the COVID-19 tracking apps are privately-developed and voluntary by nature. Nevertheless, whether government imposed or privately governed, these apps gather sensitive data, that expose individuals to human rights risks, such as various forms of discrimination, without providing proper avenues of accountability... Talks between governments and telecommunication providers seem to be ongoing, with little information available in the public domain about what that tracking would exactly look like... The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health appears to be considering the use of facial recognition technology, in cooperation with Clearview and Palantir.

... The uncertainty of governance issues around data usage to fight the spread of COVID19 has also lead to various calls about responsible frameworks, alas often using an “ethics” terminology, whereas the Business & Human Rights community would certainly be more in favor of rights-based language, such as privacy.

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Related companies: Clearview Palantir Technologies