[nexa] In the battle against coronavirus, personal privacy is at risk - CNN

Alberto Cammozzo ac+nexa at zeromx.net
Sat Mar 21 19:03:23 CET 2020


San Francisco (CNN Business)When Declan Chan arrived in Hong Kong from
Zurich on March 17 after six weeks overseas, city officials made him put
on a plain-looking white wristband and download an app called
StayHomeSafe before he exited the airport.
He was told to register on the app once he got home, which would start a
14-day countdown, and walk to all four corners of his apartment so it
could capture the location and confines of his home.
As countries around the world fight the spread of the coronavirus,
several governments are using technology to monitor quarantines —
particularly of people coming in from overseas. Israel this week
approved the use of cellphone tracking technology to monitor suspected
coronavirus patients — an option normally used only for
counterterrorism. Thailand is reportedly giving all new arrivals at its
airports a free SIM card and making them download an app that tracks
their location for 14 days.

But there are concerns that tracking measures to contain the pandemic
could pave the way for greater government surveillance. In Israel, for
example, Opposition politicians and constitutional experts criticized
the tracking measures, not only for their invasion of privacy but also
for the lack of parliamentary oversight in pushing them through.
The urgency to fight the coronavirus could open up a new front in the
long-running global debate between privacy and security. Over the years,
some governments have relied on controversial practices such as using
facial recognition and phone data collection to protect citizens,
potentially at the expense of their personal privacy.
"I think the question might be whether the means justify the ends,"
Jennifer King, director of privacy at Stanford University's Center for
Internet and Society, told CNN Business. "I'd want to hear a clear
justification as to why some of the requests for personal data are being
made, and why other methods might not work as well or reasonably well
without the privacy impact."
Before he left the airport, Chan was made to put on a wristband
connected to a smartphone app.
Chan's wristband is one of 60,000 that Hong Kong is deploying to enforce
quarantines and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The wristband and
the app were developed in collaboration with a local startup "to
ascertain people under quarantine are staying at their dwelling places,"
according to a government statement.
Chan, 36, said he wasn't explicitly told what would happen if he took
off the wristband or disconnected the app. A form he was given -- a
photo of which he shared with CNN Business -- says that anyone who
"contravenes or knowingly gives false information to [the] Department of
Health" is liable to face a 5000 HKD ($644) fine and six months in prison.
"Should the app be deleted during quarantine period, the Department of
Health and the police will be alerted to take follow-up action," a Hong
Kong government spokesperson told CNN Business. The spokesperson said
users are free to delete the app after 14 days.

The coronavirus is stretching Facebook to its limits
The governments have painted the quarantine tracking and monitoring as
necessary steps to curb the virus, while also insisting they are
committed to protecting privacy.
"The [Hong Kong government] attaches great importance to privacy
protection," the spokesperson said, adding that its tracking app does
not collect any additional data from the users' smartphone. "The
collection of personal data is minimal in accordance with the provision
of the quarantine order."
The Hong Kong government's wristband is connected to an app that has
a 14-day countdown clock.
The Hong Kong government's wristband is connected to an app that has a
14-day countdown clock.
Israel's deputy attorney general, Raz Nizri, said tracking people is
"essential" to save lives. "The aim was to find the optimal solution
that will minimize the infringement of privacy," he told Kan Reshen Bet
Thai authorities will delete user data collected by their tracking app
within 14 days, an official at the country's telecommunications
authority told the Bangkok Post newspaper.
Experts say that while some amount of tracking may be necessary to
contain the virus, users need to be protected from it being turned into
a broader surveillance tool.
"Mandatory orders or those with no explicit restrictions on the
collection and use of the data would be very worrisome," said King.
There is also the risk that measures seemingly justified by the current
pandemic could be retained or expanded even after they are no longer
"I think we have to be on the lookout for 'scope creep' — contexts where
we demand emergency powers that risk privacy and then fail to walk back
after the emergency passes," she said.
Trump administration wants to use Americans' location data to track
the coronavirus
Trump administration wants to use Americans' location data to track the
The US government is also in discussions with the tech industry to use
Americans' location data to track the spread of the coronavirus, with
Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) confirming they are exploring ways to
share aggregated, anonymized data rather than location data of specific
users, a point they took great pains to emphasize. But larger Western
democracies will likely face bigger challenges and greater pushback in
trying to institute some of the tracking measures other countries have.
"Every country is different, and I think that the incentive to engage in
this sort of tracking is higher for smaller countries that have dense
populations and the political will and technology necessary to make this
happen — like Israel and Hong Kong," said Dipayan Ghosh, a former
Facebook and Obama administration official who is now a fellow at
Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "It is difficult to
imagine these policies extending to Western democratic countries at this

Chan said he preferred being forced to quarantine at home rather than
being placed in a government facility.
"I kind of feel weird that there's no other option, other than the
bracelets. I do feel a bit weird," he said. "But it's the lesser of the
two evils, if I have to choose between this and a quarantine camp... at
least home is a safer environment."

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