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Accordingly, although networked digital technologies have invaluable and extensive capabilities that could seriously enhance the effectiveness of pandemic containment, their automaticity, speed, scale, and data-generating capabilities mean that their potential for abuse and overreach is vastly greater than the risks of abuse associated with more conventional social instruments of control, in the form of rules backed by penalties. Not only are conventional rules enforced on a case-by-case basis, but they do not suffer from the same level of opacity and cannot be so readily repurposed. Democratic accountability, participation, and effective safeguards The extraordinary power and potential of networked digital technologies highlights why transparency, public consultation, and robust and trustworthy systems of oversight are vital and indispensable, at least in democratic societies committed to respect for individual liberty and freedom. The need to establish and implement adequate oversight systems and safeguards is made more urgent if these technological systems are developed and implemented by private providers. Yet the urgency of the state’s need to draw upon the technological capacities and expertise of commercial firms may result in the implementation of privately developed technological systems without adequate democratic oversight. This both significantly increases risks of exploitation and abuse, and makes it more likely that the systems themselves will prove impossible in practice to roll back, even after the pandemic has passed. Hence Naomi Klein’s alarm at the colonising ambitions of the digital tech sector, which the pandemic has only accelerated.4 Although Klein recognises that networked digital technologies will have an important role in protecting public health moving forward, she warns that COVID-19 is enabling their rapid acceleration into the realm of critical services such as health and education without democratic participation and oversight, allowing Big Tech to eschew all responsibility for any resulting collateral damage. Public trust, transparency, and accountability in governmental decision-making The need for effective oversight and safeguards over the development and deployment of networked digital systems

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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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