woensdag 27 mei 2020

The ramifications of COVID-19 contact tracing apps

Green Post-Corona Talks #7

Will apps for tracing the contacts of COVID-19 carriers bring us closer to a surveillance state, strengthen surveillance capitalism, or boost privacy by design?

Tracing the possibly infected contacts of people who carry COVID-19 is essential for containing the pandemic. Many European governments are working on smartphone applications that are meant to support contact tracing by health authorities. These apps might have an impact on our civil liberties, even beyond the current crisis. Much depends upon their design, their legal embedding and their effectiveness.

Can contact tracing apps ever work? Have governments fallen into the trap of technosolutionism? Does the protection of privacy clash with the information needs of health authorities? Are new laws necessary to guarantee that the use of such apps remains voluntary and to prevent function creep? Is Big Tech suddenly a force for the good, now that Google and Apple are pushing governments towards a decentralised approach of digital contact tracing? Is this a breakthrough for ‘privacy by design’? Or does the contact tracing functionality that Google and Apple are building into their operating systems pave the way for new forms of targeted advertising and mass surveillance? Will the fact that France and the United Kingdom opt for a centralised approach to digital contact tracing, while Germany and other European countries opt for a decentralised approach, impede the reopening of borders in Europe?

We will try to find answers to these questions on 27 May, from 14:00 to 15:00, in an online talk with internet pioneer Marleen Stikker, privacy researcher Seda Gürses, and Laura Sophie Dornheim of the German Greens. The webinar will be moderated by Dirk Holemans.

Marleen Stikker is an internet pioneer. She is founder and director of Waag in Amsterdam.

Seda Gürses is privacy researcher at Delft University of Technology and an affiliate at KU Leuven. She is part of the DP3T project for decentralised privacy-preserving proximity tracing.

Laura Sophie Dornheim is an information management specialist and speaker of the Berlin Greens' working group on internet policy.

Dirk Holemans is coordinator of Oikos think tank and co-president of the Green European Foundation.

Wetenschappelijk Bureau GroenLinks joins hands with the Green European Foundation and Oikos to organise this 7th episode of the Green Post-Corona Talks.

Update: see the video recording of the talk here.

Background information

Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Tech and Covid-19. Global perspectives on digital trends during the crisis, 2020 (dossier)

Nicky Case, Protecting lives & liberty. How contact tracing apps can foil both COVID-19 and Big Brother, 2020 (comic)

Cristina Criddle & Leo Kellion, ‘Coronavirus contact-tracing: World split between two types of app’, BBC News, 7 May 2020

Janosch Delker, ‘Coronavirus: Actually, we don’t have an app for that’, Politico, 23 April 2020

European Data Protection Board, Guidelines 04/2020 on the use of location data and contact tracing tools in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, 21 April 2020

Christina Farr, ‘How a handful of Apple and Google employees came together to help health officials trace coronavirus’, CNBC, 28 April 2020

Bart Preneel et al., Joint Statement on Contact Tracing, 19 April 2020

Grant Sanderson, ‘Contact tracing and privacy protection’, YouTube, 2020 (video)

Green European Foundation

This event is organised by the Green European Foundation, Oikos and Wetenschappelijk Bureau GroenLinks, with the financial support of the European Parliament to the Green European Foundation.