Digital contact tracing and surveillance during COVID-19
General and child-specific ethical issues
Balancing the need to collect data to support good decision-making versus the need to protect children from harm created through the collection of the data has never been more challenging than in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the pandemic has seen an unprecedented rapid scaling up of technologies to support digital contact tracing and surveillance. As the pandemic progresses, we are also likely to see the emergence of more applications that link datasets as we seek to better understand the secondary impacts of the pandemic on children and their families.
This working paper explores the implications for privacy as the linking of datasets increases the likelihood that children will be identifiable and consequently, the opportunities for (sensitive) data profiling. It also frequently involves making data available to a broader set of users or data managers.
While it is recognized that reuse of unidentifiable data could potentially serve future public health responses and research, the nature of, access to and use of the data now and in future necessitate accountability, transparency and clear governance processes. It requires that these be in place from the outset. These are needed to ensure that data privacy is protected to the greatest degree possible and that the limitations to the use of these data are clearly articulated.