Evaluating the trade-off between privacy, public health safety, and digital security in a pandemic

Paper by Titi Akinsanmi and Aishat Salami: “COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of everyday normalcy globally. During the height of the pandemic, people shared their (PI) with one goal—to protect themselves from contracting an “unknown and rapidly mutating” virus. The technologies (from applications based on mobile devices to online platforms) collect (with or without informed consent) large amounts of PI including location, travel, and personal health information. These were deployed to monitor, track, and control the spread of the virus. However, many of these measures encouraged the trade-off on privacy for safety. In this paper, we reexamine the nature of privacy through the lens of safety focused on the health sector, digital security, and what constitutes an infraction or otherwise of the privacy rights of individuals in a pandemic as experienced in the past 18 months. This paper makes a case for maintaining a balance between the benefit, which the contact tracing apps offer in the containment of COVID-19 with the need to ensure end-user privacy and data security. Specifically, it strengthens the case for designing with transparency and accountability measures and safeguards in place as critical to protecting the privacy and digital security of users—in the use, collection, and retention of user data. We recommend oversight measures to ensure compliance with the principles of lawful processing, knowing that these, among others, would ensure the integration of privacy by design principles even in unforeseen crises like an ongoing pandemic; entrench public trust and acceptance, and protect the digital security of people…(More)”.