Safeguarding Public Values in Cooperation with Big Tech Companies: The Case of the Austrian Contact Tracing App Stopp Corona

Paper by Valerie Eveline: “In April 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Austrian Red Cross announced it was encouraging a cooperation with Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification Framework to develop the so-called Stop Corona app – a contact tracing app which would support health personnel in monitoring the spread of the virus to prevent new infections (European Commission, 2020a). The involvement of Google and Apple to support combating a public health emergency fueled controversy over addressing profit-driven private interests at the expense of public values. Concerns have been raised about the dominant position of US based big tech companies in political decision concerning public values. This research investigates how public values are safeguarded in cooperation with big tech companies in the Austrian contact tracing app Stop Corona. Contact tracing apps manifest a bigger trend in literature, signifying power dynamics of big tech companies, governments, and civil society in relation to public values. The theoretical foundation of this research form prevailing concepts from Media and Communication Studies (MCS) and Science and Technology Studies (STS) about power dynamics such as the expansion of digital platforms and infrastructures, the political economy of big tech companies, dependencies, and digital platforms and infrastructure governance.

The cooperative responsibility framework guides the empirical investigation in four main steps. First steps identify key public values at stake and main stakeholders. After, public deliberations on advancing public values and the translation of public values based on the outcome of public deliberation are analyzed….(More)”.