Since late 2019, the world has been fighting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In response to the pandemic, governments around the world have been using data and technology in their efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Access Now puts forward privacy and data protection recommendations for governments to fight against COVID-19 in a rights-respecting manner.
From past health crises, we know how important it is to not fall for quick fixes, and to uphold human rights to prevent further harms for the population. Access Now is committed to protecting human rights and to contributing to governments’ responses to the coronavirus outbreak, especially in times like these when marginalized communities face even greater risk.
“The question is not if governments can use data and tech to help fight the virus but how; our human rights-centric recommendations will assist decision-makers in this process,” said Estelle Massé, Global Lead on Data Protection at Access Now. “Our message to governments is simple: protecting digital rights also promotes public health.”
Access Now’s Recommendations on Privacy and Data Protection in the Fight against COVID-19 focuses on three categories of measures that authorities have advanced around the world: (1) collection and use of health data, (2) tracking and geolocation, and (3) public-private partnerships. Our recommendations aim to ensure that the rule of law, and the rights to privacy and data protection, are protected throughout this crisis and in the future.
Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures, but responses adopted by governments to fight COVID-19 will have an impact beyond this emergency. Governments must promote public health, prevent discrimination, ensure access to reliable and timely information, defend unrestricted access to an open, affordable, and secure internet, ensure the enjoyment of freedom of expression and of opinion, and protect privacy and personal data.
Governments, companies, NGOs, and individuals alike have a responsibility to do their part to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 and to show solidarity and respect for each other.
“In a time of crisis, public trust is key to ensuring that everyone unites behind the response,” Massé said. “Eroding human rights would be misguided and harmful, both during and in the aftermath of the crisis.“
We hope that the recommendations we present to governments will contribute to finding a common response to this crisis, and we stand ready to further advise on its implementation.