Just Say No!
The subject of Contact Tracing came up yesterday during an online meeting. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, from the CDC -
Now that we have the “official” word, let’s look a bit further. Contract Tracing using current and developing digital technology, read your cell phone and newly developed apps is the path being taken. Rahm Emanuel used this expression during the great recession of 2008, saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Crises have long been used as an opportunity by federal, state, and local governments to infringe on our civil liberties and personal privacy, all in the name of public safety. And if not for public safety, let us do it for the children.
Recent history reminds us of the uncovering of unaccountable surveillance by the Central Intelligence Agency as well as the National Security Agency. We have Julian Assange and Wikileaks and Edward Snowden to thank for their efforts. Despite all of the good intentions during this crisis pandemic, there remain profound civil liberty, privacy, and security issues that are unresolved.
Put forth the following -
Thus, any data collection and digital monitoring of potential carriers of COVID-19 should take into consideration and commit to these principles:
Privacy intrusions must be necessary and proportionate. A program that collects, en masse, identifiable information about people must be scientifically justified and deemed necessary by public health experts for the purpose of containment. And that data processing must be proportionate to the need. For example, maintenance of 10 years of travel history of all people would not be proportionate to the need to contain a disease like COVID-19, which has a two-week incubation period.
Data collection based on science, not bias. Given the global scope of communicable diseases, there is historical precedent for improper government containment efforts driven by bias based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, and race—rather than facts about a particular individual’s actual likelihood of contracting the virus, such as their travel history or contact with potentially infected people. Today, we must ensure that any automated data systems used to contain COVID-19 do not erroneously identify members of specific demographic groups as particularly susceptible to infection.
Expiration. As in other major emergencies in the past, there is a hazard that the data surveillance infrastructure we build to contain COVID-19 may long outlive the crisis it was intended to address. The government and its corporate cooperators must roll back any invasive programs created in the name of public health after crisis has been contained.
Transparency. Any government use of "big data" to track virus spread must be clearly and quickly explained to the public. This includes publication of detailed information about the information being gathered, the retention period for the information, the tools used to process that information, the ways these tools guide public health decisions, and whether these tools have had any positive or negative outcomes.
Due Process. If the government seeks to limit a person’s rights based on this "big data" surveillance (for example, to quarantine them based on the system’s conclusions about their relationships or travel), then the person must have the opportunity to timely and fairly challenge these conclusions and limits.
Much of what appears to be the focus of state and local health departments are only on finding the virus and slowing the spread. There is no mention or discussion of an individual’s civil rights, personal privacy, or protection during the contact tracing efforts. In reality, health officials are stymied and upset that individuals that are being sought after in the contact tracing process are uncooperative with those tasked with the contact tracing.
While many are concentrating only on numbers supplied by Johns Hopkins, or state and local health agencies, the turd in the punch bowl, not being addressed is the overall issue of contact tracing.