Social Media + Society
The global coronavirus pandemic has raised important questions regarding how to balance public health concerns with privacy protections for individual citizens. In this essay, we evaluate contact tracing apps, which have been offered as a technological solution to minimize the spread of COVID-19. We argue that apps such as those built on Google and Apple’s “exposure notification system” should be evaluated in terms of the contextual integrity of information flows; in other words, the appropriateness of sharing health and location data will be contextually dependent on factors such as who will have access to data, as well as the transmission principles underlying data transfer. We also consider the role of prevailing social and political values in this assessment, including the large-scale social benefits that can be obtained through such information sharing. However, caution should be taken in violating contextual integrity, even in the case of a pandemic, because it risks a long-term loss of autonomy and growing function creep for surveillance and monitoring technologies.
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Vitak, Jessica and Zimmer, Michael, "More Than Just Privacy: Using Contextual Integrity to Evaluate the Long-Term Risks from COVID-19 Surveillance Technologies" (2020). Computer Science Faculty Research and Publications. 50.