The spread of the Delta variant highlights how important it is to respond quickly to public health crises, and it means examining how contact tracing technologies can be implemented without undermining public trust or exacerbating disparities. If designed correctly, digital contact tracing technologies (DCTT) can be a valuable tool to help stem future outbreaks and reduce the time it takes to identify potential new cases.
Unfortunately, governments and other organizations have had uneven success in deploying DCTT to help track the COVID-19 pandemic. Many national and state governments in the United States have struggled to convince individuals to use exposure notification apps due to privacy concerns. At the same time, COVID-19 has exposed long-standing health equity issues, including disparate access to technology and the social exclusion of historically disenfranchised people.
Last year, the Chinese government traced an outbreak of COVID-19 infections in predominantly African communities in the Yuexiu and Baiyun regions of Guangzhou. Following government reports that five Nigerians in the region tested positive for COVID-19, the government expelled members of this community from their homes and denied them hotel service, even though they did not. no recent travel history or known exposure to COVID-19. People with “African contacts” were directed to self-quarantine and bars and restaurants were asked to refuse service to customers who appeared to be African.
This disturbing scenario highlights the risks of using DCTT without substantial controls to protect civil, human and privacy rights – as a blueprint to recognize and address implicit biases. DCTT should not be used to target or shame groups who share certain characteristics.
CPOs and other privacy officials will play an important role in the adoption of TVSD by governments, businesses and schools. It is important to take measures to ensure equity in access to TVSD and to understand the societal risks and trade-offs that may accompany its implementation. Privacy officials who understand these risks will be better able to build confidence in this technology within their organizations.
To meet the challenges of digital contact tracing, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has partnered with six leading privacy organizations, d equity in health and the defense of social rights to develop principles guiding organizations implementing this technology. to do so in a way that respects everyone’s privacy. The eight principles are:
1. Be transparent about how data is used and shared. DCTT users should be informed about how their data is collected, used and shared through visible, understandable and accessible statements.
2. Apply sound de-identification techniques and solutions. DCTT providers should apply robust privacy protection techniques and solutions to prevent unauthorized parties from exploiting sensitive data collected through DCTTs in a manner that goes against the spirit of the EU. public health or that poses a risk of harm.
3. Empower users with multi-level on / off features and data minimization. Participation in the DCTT should be voluntary (rather than mandatory) and users of the DCTT should generally have the choice of opting for specific functionalities of the DCTT (by favoring opt-in or opt-out models).
4. Recognize and address gaps in privacy, security and non-discrimination. DCTT developers and institutional adopters of DCTT should publicly endorse and be held accountable for a code of ethics, standard, manual and / or framework that upholds diversity and equity in DCTT.
5. Create equitable access to DCTT. It is important for developers to avoid tying a particular type of device to the most beneficial DCTT functionality. When creating equitable access to TVSD, it is important to address the unique structural and procedural barriers that individuals or groups may encounter when seeking to access the benefits of using TVSD.
6. Recognize and address the prejudices implicit in and between public and private settings. It is important to recognize the current reality and the impact of the biases that exist in a multitude of important settings, such as healthcare or public health facilities, and to address the scenarios in which DCTT could expose, perpetuate or even exacerbate social prejudices within these settings.
7. Democratize data for the public good while using appropriate confidentiality safeguards. Where possible, data should be democratized to provide benefits to public health programs and infrastructure. Often, DCTT data can be shared in limited and anonymized ways to promote these goals.
8. Adopt privacy-by-design standards that make DCTT widely accessible. Developers should adopt privacy-by-design design standards that can also ensure wide user access to DCTT. These standards should ensure that the benefits of the TVSD can be maximized to serve the public, but without compromising, by design, the confidentiality and fairness among users of the TVSD.
The principles created by FPF and its partners address the risks and disparities of DCTT while promoting transparency and access to anonymized contact tracing data for those who legitimately should have it. DCTT is playing a role during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some are looking to use contact tracing as a key approach to tackle future public health crises. Privacy experts have a crucial role to play: ensuring that individuals and their data are treated with dignity and respect.