In order to stump out COVID-19 is it worth building a new national surveillance system?
Well, experts say the timing is urgent and stakes have never been higher.
Let's figure out what my work and what we might give up.
So you want to track fight and stomp out the Coronavirus.
He had no problem tech can do this.
By now we've all heard of this kind of ancient technique called contact tracing.
It's been used by medical professionals for years to track the spread of infectious diseases.
It works but it's also slow.
It's labor intensive, because it requires.
Actual humans interviewing actual humans who test positive about where they go and who they interacted again, it's effective, but labor intensive.
Now, technology and especially smartphones has made contact tracing a heck of a lot easier because we're all essentially carrying around with us a digital surveillance device.
In South Korea, digital contact tracing using smartphones appears to have been pretty effective at flattening the curve.
The government along with tech firms has deployed this variety of technologies including Bluetooth data, GPS data, shopping records and even travel information, to figure out how infected individuals interact with the public.
It has worked but it's also very opaque about what data stays with the government in tech firms and what data expires.
In the US, Apple and Google two tech giants that usually compete ferociously have teamed up on a two phase solution.
Phase one involves Applications that the tech companies would approve and infected users could opt into then would track using low power bluetooth and encrypted anonymous tokens where these people go and who they interact with phase two of the plan involves very similar technology being built in at the operating the O.S level.
So on the one hand, this could be incredibly effective at doing contact tracing very quickly at huge scale.
On the other hand, it's really not clear that once this tracking technology is built in at the OS level, when if ever we will have the ability to opt out The federal government and think-tanks are also on a hunt for a tech solution to COVID-19.
Jared Kushner presented a digital contact-tracing plan and surveillance idea that was so massive, so wide-reaching that Politico called it a patriot act.
For the healthcare system, another solution presented by the American Enterprise Institute in their comprehensive roadmap to reopening proposal called for a new national surveillance system and data infrastructure to report track and quarantine potentially infected individuals.
So it seems like most of the good Covid19 Solutions also come with their fair share of privacy risk, but to get a sense of how much risk and exactly what's at stake, I spoke with john Ackerley.
Now Ackerley was responsible for Technology Policy.
During the George W. Bush White House just before, during and after the 911 period, and he knows exactly what a patriot act for healthcare might look like he did say that although the COVID-19 tech solutions are real.
The Privacy trade offs might be irreversible.
If you go back in time to so than 20 years during September 11.
A lot of decisions were made in the heat of the response with a lack of transparency and really trying to address a crisis of the moment What happens was very important measures were put in place that became permanent.
And we are still living with those After Effects today, whether it's the FISA court changes, or the Patriot Act which which then, which then essentially established a national database tracking all US citizens As a result, we do have a public crisis in trust.
And trust is the essential ingredient, in order for any of these technology based solutions to work in a way that's consistent with our civil liberties.
And the US approach to that how we address these kinds of problems.
So we are really working out of position of a deficit today.
And I think that's the key thing to keep in mind.
It's very easy to put in place measures.
It's very hard to to then to then take them away later.
Now Ackerley said the technology itself isn't inherently a problem.
It's how we use technology and he suggested That tech that returns privacy to the user by default and is open source meaning it's available by anyone is one potential solution that strikes a balance between stamping out the Coronavirus on the one hand using the scalability of tech and Privacy that's inherently ours, on the other hand,
The top three things are first and foremost, we have got to move quickly.
So from a US perspective, the CDC needs to put out what their track and trace.
Health Surveillance core principles are grounded in legislation that affirms on a national basis, the right to privacy and the right to control your health data.
That needs to happen right away and there'll be bipartisan support for that.
In so doing The US will also be able to regain its seat at the table globally around data privacy issues and help drive to a global standard for how these systems are put in place so that global commerce can be reinstated.
So what do you think?
Can we figure out technology that respects privacy on the one hand, but kills Coronavirus on the other hand?
And what about this perpetual battle between privacy and safety?