Hello, privacy pros.
The privacy world continues to be pulled even more deeply into the COVID-19 pandemic crisis as the spotlight shifted away from Zoom, with Apple and Google announcing a partnership on COVID-19 contact tracing technology. The technology will roll out with an API to be made available to existing contact tracing apps but will eventually be incorporated into the tech giants' respective mobile operating systems.
Since the announcement, numerous privacy questions have been raised about the proposed scheme. You can find a good high-level explanation of how it works here, the privacy protections built in and details of some of the remaining privacy concerns. For a bit deeper technical dive, check out this article or this technical specification from Google. To understand how Apple and Google propose to protect against false positives and trolls, check out this article from Gizmodo.
Independent of the Apple-Google announcement, governments throughout the world are racing ahead with their own technical solutions. This op-ed in The Indian Express describes the challenges governments face when trying to convince citizens to install government-developed contact tracing apps.
Here in Australia, the federal government is developing its own app to monitor people's interactions using GPS-based location data. Use of the app will be voluntary, and the government believes only 40% of the population would need to opt in for it to be effective.
In the above Engadget article, the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project Special Advisor Jay Stanley said, “There’s no question that civil liberties have to give way when it comes to a public health crisis like this, but any incursions on civil liberties have to be necessary, they have to be effective and they have to be proportional.”
I would add that such incursions on civil liberties must also be temporary. If these technologies will be deployed on an opt-in basis, that opt-in should expire within a reasonable time frame or, at minimum, individuals should be re-prompted to confirm their participation. To the extent that we will rely on changes to law to deploy these or similar technologies, we should consider including sunset provisions, which would cause them to expire without further legislative intervention.
On a related note, don't miss Shane Smith's interview of Edward Snowden, which is available to stream for free as the inaugural episode of Vice's new show, “Shelter in Place.” Snowden's analysis of the current responses to COVID-19 is insightful, as are his analogies to past erosions of civil liberties in the context of historical crises.
Apart from the pandemic, the IAPP and its members are continuing to find ways to share knowledge and pursue professional development. If you can carve out some of your quarantine time to meet up with other privacy professionals, consider joining one of our upcoming virtual KnowledgeNet events. Australia and New Zealand members should mark their calendars for 22 April to attend a live webinar led by Nicole Stephensen of Ground Up Consulting who will team up with Adam Beck of the Smart Cities Council for Australia New Zealand for a discussion of the recently opened Centre for Data Leadership.
IAPP Country Leader, Australia
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