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The Coronavirus continues to cause serious damage to humanity: loss of life, employment, and economic opportunity. In effort to regain economic activity, governments at every level local/federal/state have been working on a phased approach to re-opening. However, with reopping there is a risk of outbreaks, see a map of outbreaks across the world. Recent reports from the United Stats indicate that some areas are reversing course back to a shutdown, some studies are showing their effectiveness.
Why Contact Tracing?
One of the main strategies to aide in re-openning is the use of contact tracing apps. Here is how the World Health Organization (WHO) defines contact tracing:
Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission. When systematically applied, contact tracing will break the chains of transmission of COVID-19 and is an essential public health tool for controlling the virus.
The Privacy Issue?
It is rather simple,
A Data Warehouse with sensetive personal information from various sources and wide access is a receipe for failure
A contact tracing data ware house is unique since it combines movement, relationships between citizens, and with medical conditions. This combination doesn’t exist in any other database across the nation, which makes it a target for hackers, agressive adevertisers, and well-intended ignornant users.
Examples of Failures:
Two countries with advanced technologies namely Norway and UK have pulled their contact tracing applications.
Norway’s health authorities said on Monday they had suspended an app designed to help trace the spread of the new coronavirus after the national data protection agency said it was too invasive of privacy.
Launched in April, the smartphone app Smittestopp (“Infection stop”) was set up to collect movement data to help authorities trace the spread of COVID-19, and inform users if they had been exposed to someone carrying the novel coronavirus.
The United Kingdon
A smartphone app to track the spread of Covid-19 may never be released, ministers admitted yesterday, as they abandoned a three-month attempt to create their own version of the technology.
Why are we failing — are designers Wreckless?
Designers of contact tracing applications are priorizing development speed and sharing of data over privacy. No doubt, if we need contact tracing, we need it now. Moreover, the ability to share data and quickly is paramount.
Do we need a privacy test?
I believe that the privacy issue goes beyond testing. We need a privacy framework/charter at the country level to ensure that any tracing application follows a set of rules.
Are there solutions?
Absolutely, solutions start with implementing Privacy in Design. Implementing Data Minimization, Data Distribution, and anonymization are a few of the tools that can be very effective. For more on Privacy in Design, the book is available on Kindle for a free for prime subscribers.
follow @drwhassan for more information on privacy, social media analytics, and ethics of AI computing.