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How to (Carefully) Use Tech to Contain the Coronavirus

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A contact-tracing app developed in Singapore.

The U.S. can learn from other countries to track the pandemic while still protecting privacy.

Credit: Catherine Lai/Agence France-Presse?Getty_Images

Across the world, countries have ramped up technological efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. South Korea and Singapore have used cellphone location information to identify possible infections. Russia is using facial recognition to enforce quarantines. In China, a smartphone app is being used to assess people's contagion risks. Israel has turned to a previously undisclosed database of location data to track infections.

The United States is also considering using personal data to help policymakers address the pandemic, and is working with tech companies including Google, Facebook, Clearview AI and Palantir to figure out what kinds of data and tools can be leveraged to aid public health.

Given the seriousness of the pandemic, we should use personal data to help us track coronavirus infections and alert people who are at risk. But it would be a grave mistake to throw all of our data at the problem without considering the potential long-term privacy risks. The United States has a chance to learn from the countries that have done this well, and those that have done it poorly, to ensure that the extraordinary measures we take during this pandemic do not have repercussions for privacy that last long after it ends.


From The New York Times
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