While Israeli officials announced they were already using anti-terror tech to counter the virus, policy makers in the United States and the UK have been weighing the deployment of tracking technology to monitor and control the spread of the coronavirus.
In the United States, the technologies under consideration include geolocation tracking, facial recognition, and social media account scraping aimed at predicting where serious outbreaks will occur. Meanwhile, health officials and scientists in the UK are developing a smartphone app that will alert people when they have come into contact with someone infected with the virus.
Unlike Alipay Health Code, the Chinese smartphone tracking system from which it is adapted, the UK’s project plans to rely entirely on voluntary participation and citizens sharing information out of a sense of civic duty. The efforts of both countries highlight the struggle of technology companies and government officials to balance privacy concerns and human rights with the need to monitor the spread of the virus. Some technology company executives have argued that they can protect individual privacy by aggregating personal data that they collect. However, as Georgetown Law professor Matt Blaze reminds us, “something that seems anonymous, more often than not, is not anonymous, even if it’s designed with the best intentions.”