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INSTRUMENTS FOR PANDEMIC GOVERNANCE

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volume, the prevailing attitude appears to be that ‘using the tech, even if flawed or unsuitable, is better than not using it.’ Given the potential power, sophistication, and opacity of these systems, the apparent inattention to testing, validating, and attending to the consequences of error and other unintended effects of the digital tools proposed to tackle COVID-19, including their impact on human rights and important moral values, is seriously troubling. Because these systems can be configured to operate in ways that do not require active citizen cooperation, they entail important design choices about the extent to which their data-gathering and decision-making capacities provide citizens with the possibility to opt out. These choices also entail making trade-offs between conflicting values. For present purposes, this entails weighing the need and importance of obtaining up-to-date, accurate, and highly granular information across the population— and evaluating whether these systems will actually deliver the desired level of functionality and accuracy—against the extent to which such systems interfere with individual and collective privacy, while taking account of errors and their consequences for informational accuracy, their likely impact on the effectiveness of containment measures, and the consequences for affected individuals.3 In addition, because capturing data on each person’s movements across time and space is highly sensitive, decisions must also be made about how that data may be used, who can access it, whether and how it will be stored, for how long, whether in identified, pseudonymised or anonymised form, and the stringency of its security. All these decisions will implicate human rights and moral values, including rights to individual and collective privacy, to data protection, to freedom of movement and other fundamental rights, and to equality and distributive justice. Furthermore, the opacity and ease with which these systems and datasets can be repurposed for multiple and unrelated ends raises the danger and prospect of mission creep. Many commentators, including civil society organisations, have thus expressed considerable anxiety that these technological systems might be used in ways that seriously threaten basic liberties and freedoms. 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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