Maintaining our privacy is becoming harder and harder in this digital age and during a pandemic, like the one we are currently experiencing, it may be stripped off us without us even being aware. Governments need and want to use their citizens’ information in order to stop the pandemic, but where is the line, or in these unprecedented times, should there be one?
Privacy issues in today’s digital era are getting increasingly complex. As more systems keep asking for our private information, the challenges of safeguarding those details is increasing as well. But during a widespread pandemic like COVID-19, more aspects come into consideration, as information can literally save lives. Several countries have recently started tracking their citizens’ mobile phones for location and other information, to try and pinpoint specific cities and neighbourhoods that host a large number of infected people.
- South Korea, use their citizens’ tracking locations from mobile phones to identify who was around known locations of confirmed carriers of the virus and sent them text messages to advise them to get tested for the virus. They also use data from credit cards and security cameras to track patients’ movements.
- China, tracks virus carriers to make sure they stay home, and people need to scan a QR code before they go out to get a coloured tag based on their COVID-19 test results – green for no limitations and orange or red for periods of quarantine needed.
- Israel, where the government is also tracking citizens’ location through mobile phones to find out if they were near confirmed carriers of the virus.
On the other hand, the United States have not deployed such action at all. In fact, it has been individuals and companies that have developed these mobile apps.
Unfortunately, with every good deed done in the fight to combat this pandemic we are seeing increasingly negative aspects on the privacy of the citizens of these countries. There have already been reports of information being shared by the Chinese government and local police stations, while in Israel the Department of Health shared private information regarding patients with local councils, before being stopped by the attorney general due to privacy issues.
So where do we draw the line between our need for privacy and the care for public health that’s currently in danger because of the COVID-19 pandemic? There is apparently no right answer, at least not yet. It is left to be seen if governments will continue to track their citizens further once the pandemic is in hand, and what they do with the information that has already been stored.
There are sure to be more consequences related to privacy issues that will need to be addressed as the weeks and months drag on, while we wait for our policy makers to govern the issues around privacy and how they will react to it in future pandemics and other emergency situations, drawing a clear line between what is lawful and what is not.
FraudWatch International is currently actively targeting all COVID-19 Online Scams to protect all Internet users from cyber criminals during this period. If you think your privacy has been damaged, or you have any information about COVID-19 related scams, please visit https://fraudwatchinternational.com/covid19/ or report the details you know to Covid19@fraudwatchinternational.com.