Authorities face offsets on privacy to prevent the virus

Judy Rubio

The death toll worldwide has exceeded 6,000 and individuals totaling thousands in the US have tested positive for COVID-19. Now Italy is under lockdown and the management in New York demands commerce counting movie theaters, bars, and cafes to be closed in struggling to halt the spread of the disease.  

After the implementation of drastic measures in China to stop the speedy rate of the infection, comprising movement restrictions, extensive scrutiny and enforced isolation, it is obvious that this kind of measure is functioning, with a decline of new cases of coronavirus in China. Those procedures are not likely to be adopted in the U.S., but the government and proprietors throughout the country will have to examine intricate issues regarding confidentiality and public health in the upcoming months. 

Senior Counsel of Liberty and National Security Program Rachel Levinson-Waldman says that currently, public health specialists are not imposing any of these procedures. She said that the monitoring instruments that China has applied are at odds with indispensable American values like the freedom of speech, the right to assemble and to travel. The virus should not become a justification to introduce implements that would diminish those values. It is obvious that the most useful strategies are good hygiene like disinfecting, vigilant hand-washing and social distancing.

CoinDesk reported preceding week, China’s implications are influential when it comes to further compromise their people’s privacy. It will as well remain even after the disease is under control, as cybersecurity fellow at the R Street Institute Kathryn Waldron thinks tank that arouses free markets and limited government is skeptical US citizens we’ll see the deployment of surveillance technology at the same extent as China. American citizens are less likely to agree to major scale government surveillance on China’s scale. The U.S. does not own the scale of facial recognition structure ready in place to conduct the comparable mass surveillance that China conducts.

Waldron says surveillance carried out by the government is not a new occurrence to Chinese citizens. Long before coronavirus was a threat, China has already used facial recognition technology and almost all-pervading surveillance to control daily lives of people and those with low scores have been denied permission to travel. Presenting supplementary surveillance measures now isn’t completely new behavior.

The cost of public health

Waldman says she hasn’t heard suggestions that technologies like those in China are going to be introduced here, but the calls right now are for people to self-isolate.

The tension between the community’s needs in remaining safe and the loss of privacy that could be necessary exists. It’s unclear what route the government might plan frontward concerning this issue. 

The EFF, digital civil liberties nonprofit has also signaled the alarm about protecting civil rights in the course of a public health crisis. Organization’s latest statement says that several government agencies are gathering and evaluating personal data about large numbers of identifiable individuals, comprising their travel health, and personal relationships, the foundation says that such measures, although justified throughout a crisis, should not become long-lasting fixtures of society. 

The report reads, in case the government seeks to limit an individual’s rights based on this 'big data' surveillance, then the citizen must have the opportunity to fairly challenge these restrictions and conclusions. 

Work from home

The government is not the only one having to navigate these multifaceted issues. It’s companies, too, as questions about infectionand exposure are pushing employers to decide what personal data they need to, or can, collect about staff to protect their workforce.

Under the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, business owners must respect the privacy of personnel and other rights. Elizabeth M. Renieris, who is a lawyer and a fellow at Berkman Klein CIS, says with coronavirus that would preclude managing any kind of health testing or directly questioning a worker’s health condition or medical diagnosis. 

The lawyer says one approach to balancing these opposing demands is to take general measures that don’t require invasive enquiring or intervention with individual workers. There should not be a discussion on any individual member of staff ‘s health condition by third parties. It must be done except under limited circumstances where they might encourage the employee to seek assistance from medical providers.