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Community Organizations Can Reduce the Privacy Impacts of Surveillance During COVID-19

By ADRIAN GROPPER, MD

Until scientists discover a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, our economy and our privacy will be at the mercy of imperfect technology used to manage the pandemic response.

Contact tracing, symptom capture and immunity assessment are essential tools for pandemic response, which can benefit from appropriate technology. However, the effectiveness of these tools is constrained by the privacy concerns inherent in mass surveillance. Lack of trust diminishes voluntary participation. Coerced surveillance can lead to hiding and to the injection of false information.

But it’s not a zero-sum game. The introduction of local community organizations as trusted intermediaries can improve participation, promote trust, and reduce the privacy impact of health and social surveillance.

Balancing Surveillance with Privacy

Privacy technology can complement surveillance technology when it drives adoption through trust borne of transparency and meaningful choice.

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