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Governments collected knowledge to combat coronavirus, elevating privateness issues


Expertise has enabled the world to reply shortly to the coronavirus pandemic — however options by mass knowledge assortment have additionally raised questions on privateness rights.

Digital check-in methods, wristband trackers and cellular functions are just a few examples of the surveillance know-how applied by governments to observe and observe the motion of individuals as they search to stem the unfold of the virus.

Huge quantities of information have been collected to offer policy-makers with correct and environment friendly data to assist handle assets, and in the end form well being and social insurance policies.

Nonetheless, although these measures have paved the way in which for environment friendly contact tracing, they harness the ability of information in ways in which put the privateness of people in danger.

Privateness spectrum

Completely different governments have leveraged completely different strategies to various levels of effectiveness in combating the pandemic. Some have been deemed extra controversial than others.

On one finish of the spectrum is China, which has deployed drones, artificial intelligence and security cameras in entrance of individuals’s residences to implement quarantines and monitor public areas.

On the opposite aspect of the spectrum, western international locations like Germany, Italy and Switzerland have employed extra cautious approaches.

These European international locations additionally fall underneath the playbook of the Normal Knowledge Safety Board, or GDPR, which was established in 2016 and has been touted by the European Union as a “digital gold commonplace” for shielding knowledge and privateness.

International locations like Singapore, South Korea, Qatar and India are someplace within the center. Every has launched cellular functions, amongst different options, to assist with contact tracing efforts or self-isolation measures.

Not all contact tracing apps are the identical

Singapore’s app, TraceTogether, is voluntary for all residents and residents. The federal government says it doesn’t acquire any location knowledge. The nation additionally adopted a digital check-in system in any respect public locations, together with malls and shops, to facilitate contact tracing efforts.

In the meantime, Qatar’s contract tracing app, Ehteraz — which implies precaution — is obligatory for all residents and residents. 

Along with its contact tracing app, South Korea makes use of bank card data, telephone name data and CCTV footage to type a extra full image of the whereabouts and actions of its residents.

Sure areas of India have additionally employed surveillance instruments like their contact tracing app Aarogya Setu, telephone data, digicam footage and telephone location knowledge, with a purpose to establish doable hyperlinks to sufferers contaminated with coronavirus.

Safety flaws had been discovered within the contact tracing apps of South Korea and India, which made the non-public particulars of individuals utilizing these apps weak to safety breaches. Qatar’s Ehteraz app was additionally highlighted by Amnesty International to have “critical privateness flaws.”

Though the failings had been shortly fastened, the continued reliance on these digital instruments raised questions on whether or not knowledge safety legal guidelines have been correctly adhered to.

Calls to finish mass knowledge assortment

The European Data Protection Board and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have referred to as on governments to cease and reverse the distinctive use of information when the pandemic is over.

This knowledge contains and applies to an individual’s location knowledge that’s acquired from calls or apps on their cell phones.

The feasibility of this will depend on cautious planning of the gathering and processing of information from begin to end, stated Shahnawaz Backer, a safety advisor for American tech agency F5 Networks.

“As an illustration, if the information is being collected in a centralized method and saved with encryptions, enterprises can deactivate knowledge assortment and destroy the grasp key that enables entry to this knowledge,” Backer advised CNBC. “The place doable, knowledge ought to be tokenized to cut back breach impression.”

To tokenize knowledge is to show delicate data, comparable to an individual’s identification quantity, right into a random sequence of characters with a purpose to to guard the knowledge from breaches.


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