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PAPERING OVER THE CRACKS

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Security,3 and yet, Gotham, along with a newer Palantir software called Foundry, is currently being used as part of the COVID-19 response in the UK (see chapter by Mollicchi et. al) and Germany (see chapter by Wagner). The false dichotomy between privacy and health, therefore, feels particularly nefarious. It represents an implicit resignation to current infrastructures, accountability frameworks and institutions, and side-tracks questions around funding, politics, and healthcare. This false dichotomy encourages situations where facial recognition is used by law enforcement to ensure that social distancing norms are complied with, for instance, while skirting the question of why social distancing is a luxury that large parts of society do not have. It allows for situations where private players and governments have a plethora of options for using and repurpose sensitive personal data, without meaningfully questioning the premise and extent of data collection in the first place. Most technological solutions developed in response to COVID-19 are primed for mission creep: built in a hurry, shrouded by secret contracts, and rolled out in the absence of redress mechanisms or legal safeguards. Data protection safeguards are thus a crucial first step in tackling a larger and more layered issue—but they will not prevent a repetition of similar problems in the future if they are isolated from the need for overall structural reform. Technological responses to COVID-19 have crystallised in the public eye the profoundly shallow ways in which we are led to tackle emergency situations. The infrastructures being built and sold under the umbrella of pandemic response arise from a technocratic tendency that predates COVID-19, and will endure much longer than the current situation. This inadequacy of technological solutions will simply be entrenched around the next crisis—whatever it is—unless there is less glamorous, but infinitely more important, work done on rethinking institutions, structural inequality, funding, and discrimination. Outsourcing fundamental aspects of governance to private companies or technology just sets us up to fail—further fracturing a system that is already broken. COMMENTARIES

Profile for Meatspace Press

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

Data Justice and COVID-19: Global Perspectives  

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how social, economic, and political power is created, exerted, and extended through technology. Through c...

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