Background paper

Balancing privacy with technology use: Lessons from Covid-19

Agrawal, H., Misra, P. and Padmanabhan, A. (2020). Balancing privacy with technology use: Lessons from Covid-19. Digital Pathways at Oxford Paper Series; no. 8. Oxford, United Kingdom

There has been an uptick in the use of technology in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments have had to be swift and agile with response strategies. A variety of technology applications have been helpful in this regard. Yet, data governance and privacy principles have taken a backseat. In this paper, we derive a set of eight principles that can be followed by governments to balance individual privacy while deploying technology for governance purposes in emergency situations.

We look at three technologies used during COVID-19: contact tracing, AI use for drug development and disease prevention, and syndromic surveillance for our analysis. We highlight informational privacy harms that these technologies penetrate through a framework of privacy proposed by Koops et al (2017), in order to give a set of eight principles that governments should enforce.