Digital tools against COVID-19: Framing the ethical challenges and how to address them

04/21/2020
by   Urs Gasser, et al.
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Data collection and processing via digital public health technologies are being promoted worldwide by governments and private companies as strategic remedies for mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic and loosening lockdown measures. However, the ethical and legal boundaries of deploying digital tools for disease surveillance and control purposes are unclear, and a rapidly evolving debate has emerged globally around the promises and risks of mobilizing digital tools for public health. To help scientists and policymakers navigate technological and ethical uncertainty, we present a typology of the primary digital public health applications currently in use. Namely: proximity and contact tracing, symptom monitoring, quarantine control, and flow modeling. For each, we discuss context-specific risks, cross-sectional issues, and ethical concerns. Finally, in recognition of the need for practical guidance, we propose a navigation aid for policymakers made up of ten steps for the ethical use of digital public health tools.

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