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1.
J Med Internet Res ; 23(7): e26371, 2021 07 12.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1311341

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Various techniques are used to support contact tracing, which has been shown to be highly effective against the COVID-19 pandemic. To apply the technology, either quarantine authorities should provide the location history of patients with COVID-19, or all users should provide their own location history. This inevitably exposes either the patient's location history or the personal location history of other users. Thus, a privacy issue arises where the public good (via information release) comes in conflict with privacy exposure risks. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to develop an effective contact tracing system that does not expose the location information of the patient with COVID-19 to other users of the system, or the location information of the users to the quarantine authorities. METHODS: We propose a new protocol called PRivacy Oriented Technique for Epidemic Contact Tracing (PROTECT) that securely shares location information of patients with users by using the Brakerski/Fan-Vercauteren homomorphic encryption scheme, along with a new, secure proximity computation method. RESULTS: We developed a mobile app for the end-user and a web service for the quarantine authorities by applying the proposed method, and we verified their effectiveness. The proposed app and web service compute the existence of intersections between the encrypted location history of patients with COVID-19 released by the quarantine authorities and that of the user saved on the user's local device. We also found that this contact tracing smartphone app can identify whether the user has been in contact with such patients within a reasonable time. CONCLUSIONS: This newly developed method for contact tracing shares location information by using homomorphic encryption, without exposing the location information of patients with COVID-19 and other users. Homomorphic encryption is challenging to apply to practical issues despite its high security value. In this study, however, we have designed a system using the Brakerski/Fan-Vercauteren scheme that is applicable to a reasonable size and developed it to an operable format. The developed app and web service can help contact tracing for not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also other epidemics.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/diagnosis , Computer Security , Contact Tracing/ethics , Contact Tracing/methods , Patient Rights , Privacy , Biomedical Technology/ethics , Biomedical Technology/methods , COVID-19/epidemiology , Computer Security/ethics , Computer Security/standards , Confidentiality , Humans , Mobile Applications , Pandemics , Quarantine , SARS-CoV-2
2.
Bioethics ; 35(6): 581-588, 2021 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1216724

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immense and worldwide impact. In light of future pandemics or subsequent waves of COVID-19 it is crucial to focus on the ethical issues that were and still are raised in this COVID-19 crisis. In this paper, we look at issues that are raised in the testing and tracing of patients with COVID-19. We do this by highlighting and expanding on an approach suggested by Fineberg that could serve as a public health approach. In this way, we highlight several ethical issues. As regards testing, questions are raised such as whether it is ethical to use less reliable tests in order to increase testing capacity or minimize harm for patients. Another issue is how wide testing should be and whether selective testing is in accordance with principles of social justice. Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 might have some degree of immunity but attributing certain 'immunopriviliges' raises ethical questions. The use of various tracing methodologies (mobile apps or databases and trained tracers) raised evident questions of social justice and privacy. We argue why it is key to always uphold a test of proportionality where a fair balance must be sought.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Testing/ethics , COVID-19 , Contact Tracing/ethics , Ethics , Mass Screening/ethics , Pandemics , Public Health/ethics , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/prevention & control , Contact Tracing/methods , Data Management , Humans , Mobile Applications , Privacy , Reproducibility of Results , SARS-CoV-2 , Social Justice
3.
Sci Eng Ethics ; 27(2): 23, 2021 03 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1155325

ABSTRACT

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, high hopes were placed on digital contact tracing. Digital contact tracing apps can now be downloaded in many countries, but as further waves of COVID-19 tear through much of the northern hemisphere, these apps are playing a less important role in interrupting chains of infection than anticipated. We argue that one of the reasons for this is that most countries have opted for decentralised apps, which cannot provide a means of rapidly informing users of likely infections while avoiding too many false positive reports. Centralised apps, in contrast, have the potential to do this. But policy making was influenced by public debates about the right app configuration, which have tended to focus heavily on privacy, and are driven by the assumption that decentralised apps are "privacy preserving by design". We show that both types of apps are in fact vulnerable to privacy breaches, and, drawing on principles from safety engineering and risk analysis, compare the risks of centralised and decentralised systems along two dimensions, namely the probability of possible breaches and their severity. We conclude that a centralised app may in fact minimise overall ethical risk, and contend that we must reassess our approach to digital contact tracing, and should, more generally, be cautious about a myopic focus on privacy when conducting ethical assessments of data technologies.


Subject(s)
Confidentiality/ethics , Contact Tracing/ethics , Contact Tracing/methods , Digital Technology , Information Storage and Retrieval/methods , Mobile Applications , Privacy , COVID-19/epidemiology , Health Policy , Humans , Information Storage and Retrieval/ethics , Public Health , SARS-CoV-2 , Smartphone
4.
Camb Q Healthc Ethics ; 30(2): 262-271, 2021 Apr.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1149667

ABSTRACT

Several digital contact tracing smartphone applications have been developed worldwide in the effort to combat COVID-19 that warn users of potential exposure to infectious patients and generate big data that helps in early identification of hotspots, complementing the manual tracing operations. In most democracies, concerns over a breach in data privacy have resulted in severe opposition toward their mandatory adoption. This paper examines India as a noticeable exception, where the compulsory installation of such a government-backed application, the "Aarogya Setu" has been deemed mandatory in certain situations. We argue that the mandatory app requirement constitutes a legitimate public health intervention during a public health emergency.


Subject(s)
Contact Tracing/ethics , Mobile Applications/ethics , Privacy , Bioethical Issues , Cell Phone , Ethical Analysis , Humans , India
5.
J Am Med Inform Assoc ; 28(1): 184-189, 2021 01 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1066359

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic response in the United States has exposed significant gaps in information systems and processes that prevent timely clinical and public health decision-making. Specifically, the use of informatics to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, support COVID-19 care delivery, and accelerate knowledge discovery bring to the forefront issues of privacy, surveillance, limits of state powers, and interoperability between public health and clinical information systems. Using a consensus-building process, we critically analyze informatics-related ethical issues in light of the pandemic across 3 themes: (1) public health reporting and data sharing, (2) contact tracing and tracking, and (3) clinical scoring tools for critical care. We provide context and rationale for ethical considerations and recommendations that are actionable during the pandemic and conclude with recommendations calling for longer-term, broader change (beyond the pandemic) for public health organization and policy reform.


Subject(s)
Bioethical Issues , COVID-19 , Contact Tracing/ethics , Medical Informatics/ethics , Public Health Surveillance , Public Health/ethics , Healthcare Disparities , Humans , Information Dissemination/ethics , Privacy , Public Policy , United States
6.
J Am Med Inform Assoc ; 28(1): 193-195, 2021 01 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1066358

ABSTRACT

Recently, there have been many efforts to use mobile apps as an aid in contact tracing to control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) (COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019]) pandemic. However, although many apps aim to protect individual privacy, the very nature of contact tracing must reveal some otherwise protected personal information. Digital contact tracing has endemic privacy risks that cannot be removed by technological means, and which may require legal or economic solutions. In this brief communication, we discuss a few of these inherent privacy limitations of any decentralized automatic contact tracing system.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Contact Tracing/legislation & jurisprudence , Mobile Applications/legislation & jurisprudence , Privacy , COVID-19/epidemiology , Canada , Contact Tracing/ethics , Contact Tracing/methods , Humans , Mobile Applications/ethics , United States
7.
Hist Philos Life Sci ; 43(1): 3, 2021 Jan 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1060034

ABSTRACT

Many governments have seen digital health technologies as promising tools to tackle the current COVID-19 pandemic. A much-talked example in this context involves the recent deluge of digital contact tracing apps (DCT) aimed at detecting Covid-19 exposure. In this short contribution we look at the bio-political justification of this phenomenon and reflect on whether DCT apps constitute, as it is often argued, a serious potential breach of our right to privacy. Despite praising efforts attempting to develop legal and ethical frameworks for DCT apps' usage; we argue that such endeavours are not sufficient to tackle the more fundamental problem of mass surveillance, which will remain largely unaddressed unless we deal with the biopolitical arguments presented and resort to a technical and structural defence.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Contact Tracing/ethics , Freedom , Pandemics/prevention & control , Philosophy , Privacy , COVID-19/prevention & control , Humans
8.
Hist Philos Life Sci ; 43(1): 3, 2021 Jan 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1014266

ABSTRACT

Many governments have seen digital health technologies as promising tools to tackle the current COVID-19 pandemic. A much-talked example in this context involves the recent deluge of digital contact tracing apps (DCT) aimed at detecting Covid-19 exposure. In this short contribution we look at the bio-political justification of this phenomenon and reflect on whether DCT apps constitute, as it is often argued, a serious potential breach of our right to privacy. Despite praising efforts attempting to develop legal and ethical frameworks for DCT apps' usage; we argue that such endeavours are not sufficient to tackle the more fundamental problem of mass surveillance, which will remain largely unaddressed unless we deal with the biopolitical arguments presented and resort to a technical and structural defence.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Contact Tracing/ethics , Freedom , Pandemics/prevention & control , Philosophy , Privacy , COVID-19/prevention & control , Humans
11.
PLoS One ; 15(12): e0242652, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-999821

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE: To study the U.S. public's attitudes toward surveillance measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, particularly smartphone applications (apps) that supplement traditional contact tracing. METHOD: We deployed a survey of approximately 2,000 American adults to measure support for nine COVID-19 surveillance measures. We assessed attitudes toward contact tracing apps by manipulating six different attributes of a hypothetical app through a conjoint analysis experiment. RESULTS: A smaller percentage of respondents support the government encouraging everyone to download and use contact tracing apps (42%) compared with other surveillance measures such as enforcing temperature checks (62%), expanding traditional contact tracing (57%), carrying out centralized quarantine (49%), deploying electronic device monitoring (44%), or implementing immunity passes (44%). Despite partisan differences on a range of surveillance measures, support for the government encouraging digital contact tracing is indistinguishable between Democrats (47%) and Republicans (46%), although more Republicans oppose the policy (39%) compared to Democrats (27%). Of the app features we tested in our conjoint analysis experiment, only one had statistically significant effects on the self-reported likelihood of downloading the app: decentralized data architecture increased the likelihood by 5.4 percentage points. CONCLUSION: Support for public health surveillance policies to curb the spread of COVID-19 is relatively low in the U.S. Contact tracing apps that use decentralized data storage, compared with those that use centralized data storage, are more accepted by the public. While respondents' support for expanding traditional contact tracing is greater than their support for the government encouraging the public to download and use contact tracing apps, there are smaller partisan differences in support for the latter policy.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Contact Tracing/ethics , Pandemics , Quarantine/psychology , Adult , COVID-19/psychology , COVID-19/virology , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Mobile Applications , Perception , Privacy , Public Health Surveillance , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Smartphone , Surveys and Questionnaires , United States
12.
Pan Afr Med J ; 35(Suppl 2): 95, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-961847

ABSTRACT

Adequate preparation for highly pathogenic infectious disease pandemic can reduce the incidence, prevalence and burden of diseases like COVID-19 pandemic. An antidote to the spread of the disease is adequate preparation for its control since there is no proven curative measure yet. Effective management of identified cases, social distancing, contact tracing and provision of basic infrastructure to facilitate compliance with preventive measures, testing are proven management strategies. Although these measures seem to be the best options presently, it is important to pay attention to ethical issues arising from the implementation process to ensure best practice. While disease epidemic is not alien to human societies, lessons from previous outbreaks are vital for addressing future outbreaks. For effective control of this pandemic, there should be a clear definition of social distancing in terms of distance and space in line with the WHO definition, adequate provision of basic amenities, screening and testing with specific criteria for selecting those to be screened. Also, there should be a free testing procedure, access to treatment opportunities for those who test positive, ethical free contact tracing practice, respect for the autonomy of those to be tested, and global best practice of open science, open data and data sharing practices. In conclusion, a framework/guideline for epidemic/pandemic ethics guidance should be developed while an ethical sensitive communication manual should be prepared for public engagement on epidemic and pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Testing , COVID-19/prevention & control , Disease Outbreaks/prevention & control , Mass Screening/methods , COVID-19/diagnosis , Contact Tracing/ethics , Developing Countries , Disease Outbreaks/ethics , Health Services Accessibility , Humans , Physical Distancing
13.
J Glob Health ; 10(2): 020103, 2020 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-895611

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has put health systems, economies and societies under unprecedented strain, calling for innovative approaches. Scotland's government, like those elsewhere, is facing difficult decisions about how to deploy digital technologies and data to help contain, control and manage the disease, while also respecting citizens' rights. This paper explores the ethical challenges presented by these methods, with particular emphasis on mobile apps associated with contact tracing. Drawing on UK and international experiences, it examines issues such as public trust, data privacy and technology design; how changing disease threats and contextual factors can affect the balance between public benefits and risks; and the importance of transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation for the trustworthiness and good-governance of digital systems and strategies. Analysis of recent technology debates, controversial programmes and emerging outcomes in comparable countries implementing contact tracing apps, reveals sociotechnical complexities and unexpected paradoxes that warrant further study and underlines the need for holistic, inclusive and adaptive strategies. The paper also considers the potential role of these apps as Scotland transitions to the 'new normal', outlines challenges and opportunities for public engagement, and poses a set of ethical questions to inform decision-making at multiple levels, from software design to institutional governance.


Subject(s)
Contact Tracing/ethics , Disease Transmission, Infectious/ethics , Human Rights/ethics , Mobile Applications/ethics , Pandemics/ethics , Betacoronavirus , COVID-19 , Contact Tracing/methods , Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Disease Transmission, Infectious/prevention & control , Government , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , SARS-CoV-2 , Scotland/epidemiology , Stakeholder Participation , Technology/ethics
14.
Ann Intern Med ; 174(3): 395-400, 2021 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-884021

ABSTRACT

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged the traditional public health balance between benefiting the good of the community through contact tracing and restricting individual liberty. This article first analyzes important technical and ethical issues regarding new smartphone apps that facilitate contact tracing and exposure notification. It then presents a framework for assessing contact tracing, whether manual or digital: the effectiveness at mitigating the pandemic; acceptability of risks, particularly privacy; and equitable distribution of benefits and risks. Both manual and digital contact tracing require public trust, engagement of minority communities, prompt COVID-19 testing and return of results, and high adherence with physical distancing and use of masks.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/prevention & control , Contact Tracing/ethics , Contact Tracing/methods , Pandemics/prevention & control , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , Contact Tracing/legislation & jurisprudence , Geographic Information Systems , Humans , Masks , Minority Groups , Mobile Applications , Physical Distancing , Privacy , Risk Assessment , Smartphone , Trust , United States , Wireless Technology
15.
S Afr Med J ; 110(7): 617-620, 2020 06 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-743537

ABSTRACT

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa (SA) has established a Tracing Database, collecting both aggregated and individualised mobility and locational data on COVID-19 cases and their contacts. There are compelling public health reasons for this development, since the database has the potential to assist with policy formulation and with contact tracing. While potentially demonstrating the rapid facilitation through technology of an important public service, the Tracing Database does, however, infringe immediately upon constitutional rights to privacy and heightens the implications of ethical choices facing medical professionals. The medical community should be aware of this surveillance innovation and the risks and rewards it raises. To deal with some of these risks, including the potential for temporary rights- infringing measures to become permanent, there are significant safeguards designed into the Tracing Database, including a strict duration requirement and reporting to a designated judge. African states including SA should monitor this form of contact tracing closely, and also encourage knowledge-sharing among cross-sectoral interventions such as the Tracing Database in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Subject(s)
Communicable Disease Control/organization & administration , Confidentiality/ethics , Contact Tracing/ethics , Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Databases, Factual/ethics , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , COVID-19 , Contact Tracing/methods , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Developing Countries , Female , Humans , Male , Pandemics/statistics & numerical data , Physician's Role , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Public Health , Risk Assessment , South Africa
16.
J Bioeth Inq ; 17(4): 835-839, 2020 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-728247

ABSTRACT

Mobile applications are increasingly regarded as important tools for an integrated strategy of infection containment in post-lockdown societies around the globe. This paper discusses a number of questions that should be addressed when assessing the ethical challenges of mobile applications for digital contact-tracing of COVID-19: Which safeguards should be designed in the technology? Who should access data? What is a legitimate role for "Big Tech" companies in the development and implementation of these systems? How should cultural and behavioural issues be accounted for in the design of these apps? Should use of these apps be compulsory? What does transparency and ethical oversight mean in this context? We demonstrate that responses to these questions are complex and contingent and argue that if digital contract-tracing is used, then it should be clear that this is on a trial basis and its use should be subject to independent monitoring and evaluation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Contact Tracing/ethics , Mobile Applications/ethics , Access to Information , Humans , Privacy , Public Health , SARS-CoV-2
17.
Lancet Digit Health ; 2(8): e425-e434, 2020 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-623987

ABSTRACT

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 mobilising digital tools for public health. To help scientists and policy makers to navigate technological and ethical uncertainty, we present a typology of the primary digital public health applications that are in use. These include proximity and contact tracing, symptom monitoring, quarantine control, and flow modelling. For each, we discuss context-specific risks, cross-sectional issues, and ethical concerns. Finally, recognising the need for practical guidance, we propose a navigation aid for policy makers and other decision makers for the ethical development and use of digital public health tools.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Contact Tracing/ethics , Digital Technology , Population Surveillance , Cross-Sectional Studies , Humans , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2
19.
Hastings Cent Rep ; 50(3): 43-46, 2020 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-620138

ABSTRACT

Digital contact tracing, in combination with widespread testing, has been a focal point for many plans to "reopen" economies while containing the spread of Covid-19. Most digital contact tracing projects in the United States and Europe have prioritized privacy protections in the form of local storage of data on smartphones and the deidentification of information. However, in the prioritization of privacy in this narrow form, there is not sufficient attention given to weighing ethical trade-offs within the context of a public health pandemic or to the need to evaluate safety and effectiveness of software-based technology applied to public health.


Subject(s)
Contact Tracing/ethics , Contact Tracing/methods , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Privacy , Smartphone/ethics , Betacoronavirus , COVID-19 , Humans , Mobile Applications , Pandemics , Public Health , Risk Assessment , SARS-CoV-2
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