Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pandemic Containment: Contact Tracing and Data Privacy in Times of COVID-19

Author(s): Usman Lakhani

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South Korea stood head and shoulders above other countries in their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their containment policy is being lauded and other nations are attempting (at least in principle) to replicate their success. The South Korean response to the pandemic was supported by rapid and comprehensive testing coupled with contact tracing, which helped them identify persons who might have come in close contact with anyone infected. Contact tracing is going to be critical for managing the second wave, expected to start sometime in late fall and early winter. However, contact tracing, despite its usefulness, has serious implications on data privacy, and this concern has been expressed as such by citizens and privacy watch dogs around the world. Can we pursue an aggressive policy of technology-driven contact tracing without infringing on people’s fundamental right to privacy? In this moment of human history, should civil rights be ignored in favor of saving lives?

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