Category: COVID-19 and Privacy

College Athletes Returning to Campus with Temp Checks and Contact-Tracing

By Samantha Cleaver

When student athletes at the University of Louisville returned to campus the first week of June, they were met with drive-up coronavirus testing at the campus stadium.

Besides testing, the University of Louisville campus had put other protections in place, such as allowing only small groups of athletes to return, opening training sites with limited occupancy and encouraging social-distancing and wearing masks.

So far, the athletic department at Louisville has not provided any results from the testing they’ve done, Kenny Klein, senior associate athletic director, told Digital Privacy News.

The sample size has been small, and because so few students were on campus, individuals could be identified through reporting.

As student athletes continue to return to colleges, they are the first wave of university students to experience COVID-19 testing, and the privacy measures that come with it.

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Sun, STEM, Security: Summer Camps Go Virtual and Deal with Privacy Issues

By Samantha Cleaver

Ellen Zavian’s 14-year-old son was interested in the University of Maryland engineering Seaperch camp, but instead of being on campus, it was moved online.

Campers use materials at home and work through experiments led through Zoom calls.

Zavian, a member of the Safe Tech Committee in Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, read the fine print and saw that campers had the option to use cameras for recordings. She liked that.

For Zavian and her family, the ability to opt out of audio and video recording helped them think through how her son would attend camp securely.

She is one of many parents who find themselves preparing for online summer camp for the first time. On the other side, many camps are moving into the uncharted territory of online programming.

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What Has US Learned from Asia’s COVID-Privacy Battle? Not Much, Experts Say

By Charles McDermid

Last of two parts.

The United States has done little to implement the data-privacy lessons learned in Asia after regional governments rolled out strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19, analysts told Digital Privacy News. 

In some Asian countries, the tough tactics — contact-tracing apps and so-called digital fencing — drew data-security concerns from an internet-savvy region long weary of hacks, leaks and enhanced surveillance. 

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Asia on the Front Lines of COVID Battle, But at What Privacy Cost?

By Charles McDermid

First of two parts.

Governments across Asia have recently deployed COVID-19 surveillance measures with the potential to reshape the world’s approach to public-health crises — and to forever alter the global debate over data privacy and protection. 

As the pandemic erupted, Asian nations moved quickly to monitor their citizens: from “digital fencing” in Hong Kong and Taiwan, to color-coded “health passports” in China and India, as well as data-collection platforms in Singapore and South Korea. 

But as the conversation shifted from emergency tactics to the eventual aftermath, many experts wondered which tools would be shut down or dismantled in the post-pandemic world, and how that uncharted process might actually work.

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Experts: COVID Pandemic Could Jeopardize 2020 Census Count

By Tammy Joyner 

Where were you on April 1, 2020?

That’s what the U.S. Census Bureau wants to know, but the coronavirus outbreak has made it tough for the agency to conduct its decennial count of America’s population.

With the global pandemic threatening a second — and possibly more virulent— wave, the bureau faces possible further delays in gathering data for the count.

“From the 60,000-foot view, the pandemic has disrupted every single 2020 Census operation — either in small ways or significantly,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, a nationally recognized expert and consultant on the census, told Digital Privacy News. “This is not a minor matter.”

Nearly three months have passed since April 1. The more time passes, the greater likelihood individual responses to the census may be inaccurate, experts said.

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In Nashville, Sharing COVID Data With Police Raises Fears Among Blacks, Immigrants

By Mary Pieper

Critics of sharing information about those who are COVID-positive with police and other first responders say it’s a privacy breach that disproportionally affects African Americans and other people of color.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Craig Klugman, professor of bioethics and health humanities at DePaul University in Chicago, told Digital Privacy News. “There’s a lot of distrust out there.”

Klugman and Nashville Metro Council member Colby Sledge in Tennessee said that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, black and immigrant communities were suspicious about how the government used their personal information.

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Q&A: Kenyan Technology Expert Malcolm Kijirah

Contact-Tracing in Africa Faces Unusual Challenges

By Maureen Nkatha

Are contact-tracing apps the answer to reducing the spread of COVID-19 infections in Kenya?

Continued concerns among citizens and digital privacy advocates have raised questions on whether Kenyans are ready to risk their privacy to curb the spread of coronavirus in the East African nation.

Among the laws in place to combat cybercrime in Kenya include last year’s Data Protection Act and the 2014 policies developed from the African Union’s Malabo Convention.

But Malcolm Kijirah told Digital Privacy News that implementing these laws remained a challenge in Kenya. A lawyer in private practice, he also is a research fellow at the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at Strathmore University in Nairobi.

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Experts: COVID’s Financial Fallout May Require More Data Than Ever

By Joanne Cleaver 

As Americans emerge from sheltering in place, the privacy view from the front door may still be foggy. 

Grace periods that allowed homeowners and renters to skip, reduce or delay monthly housing payments won’t last forever.

But the financial fallout might, housing-finance experts told Digital Privacy News, might force Americans to reveal more personal data than ever to restructure their own housing stability.

The extra $600 a week in unemployment compensation flowing from the federal CARES Act expires next month.

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Experts: UK’s 20-Year Retention of Health Data Violates Law

By Robert Bateman

The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) has set up a “Test and Trace” program to help track the spread of COVID-19. 

The program, rolled out May 28, involves “contact-tracing” — gathering information about COVID-19 patients and those with whom they have been in contact, with an aim to slow the spread of the virus.

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In India, Mandatory COVID App Raises Privacy and Data-Theft Issues

By Aishwarya Jagani

The government of India last month took several steps to allay some privacy fears over its official COVID-19 contact-tracing app, Aarogya Setu.

The app’s terms of service now says the government will accept “limited liability” for data collected by the app, which had not been the case. The device also is now open-sourced, allowing independent coders and researchers to check for security flaws.

But Aarogya Setu, announced in April by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, still remains under fire: The device is mandatory for many Indian citizens, as well as for central government employees and those traveling by air or train.

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U.K. Government Urged to Publish Details of COVID Datastore Contracts

By Robert Bateman

The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) is creating a “COVID-19 datastore” with the help of such tech firms as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Silicon Valley artificial intelligence company, Palantir.

In a March blog post detailing the project, Matt Gould, chief executive of government unit NHSX, said the goal was to provide “secure, reliable and timely data — in a way that protects the privacy of our citizens — in order to make informed, effective decisions.”

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Facebook’s Small Business Grants Come With a Big Catch: Your Data

By Todd Feathers

In March, Facebook announced a $100 million grant program for small businesses struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a March 17 post on the platform. “We’ve heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work.”

The need is great. As of May 29, for instance, the federal Paycheck Protection Program of the U.S. Small Business Administration had approved more than $510 billion in emergency loans to over 4.4 million businesses, agency officials told Digital Privacy News.

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A ‘New Normal’?

What Does COVID-19 Surveillance Portend for Privacy?

By Charles McDermid

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified fears of a stricter surveillance environment in a world already troubled by huge data breaches and privacy violations, as well as the increasing power of Big Tech. 

Experts now hope the new reality brought on by coronavirus includes heightened awareness and stronger government protections, rather than apathy from a public possibly frustrated by the slow burn of constant data-privacy fears.

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Travel Industry Weighs Privacy, Safety in Re-Opening Polices

By Joanne Cleaver 

As travel resumes, what health and itinerary information will be attached to individuals’ documents?  

The travel industry has its gloved hands full as it rethinks and reorganizes its mission, functions, design and operations.

A top priority for a consortium of industry trade groups, led by the U.S. Travel Association, includes new types of identifications and related processes for ticketing, check-ins and payments.

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Chicago Deal With Canadian Tracing Firm Brings Myriad Privacy Issues

By Joanne Cleaver 

Jacob Furst’s commute from a Chicago neighborhood to his office at DePaul University, where he is director of the school of computing, involves public transportation and walking.

Not that the latest company to surveil the movements of Chicago residents would know: Furst keeps the geolocation function on his cellphone switched off.

Most residents aren’t as meticulous about shielding their routine movements from BlueDot, a Toronto company that is under contract with the city’s Department of Health to see how people are moving around the city and to extract from that data clues as to how to manage and anticipate COVID-19 patterns.

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On the COVID Front Lines

Protecting Privacy or ‘Outing’ Patients in Contact-Tracing

By Tammy Joyner

At 86, Wilhelmina Wilson takes no chances when it comes to safeguarding her health during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.

She stays squirreled away in her one-bedroom co-op apartment in Queens, where she has lived since 1976.

When she ventures out, she’s armed with disinfectant sprays and wipes for elevator buttons and doorknobs to the building’s incinerator and laundry room.

She’s en garde anytime she hears of new COVID-19 infections.

Still, Wilson worries.

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Is the US Heading Toward a Surveillance State?

By Charles McDermid

As Silicon Valley gears up to help Washington fight the COVID-19 pandemic, concern is intensifying that the United States still lacks the legal framework needed to protect data privacy during and after the public-health crisis.

A group of U.S. senators last week introduced the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act. The legislation, according to a news release, “would provide all Americans with more transparency, choice and control over the collection and use of their personal health, geolocation and proximity data.”

The move comes a short time after Apple Inc. and Google said they were developing a “contact-tracing system” that would use wireless signals to track the spread of coronavirus.

News reports indicated that within months the tracking system would be built into billions of smartphones. 

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‘The Perfect Privacy Storm’

New Issues in Privacy Debate With Technology and Contact-Tracing

By Jeff Benson

Last of two parts.

Contract-tracing raises myriad privacy issues in the coronavirus fight. Today’s report discusses how technology further muddies the waters.

Contact-tracing can involve deep detective work.

People are reluctant to share information with strangers. They forget where they’ve been, or they mix up Tuesday with Wednesday.

All of which makes it difficult to pinpoint close contacts.

Incorporating modern technology, from Bluetooth-based location tracking to app integrations that pull data from patients’ calendars, could make contact-tracing faster but would introduce fresh privacy concerns.

Ironically, the fight around contact-tracing apps could focus attention on our expectations of medical privacy more generally.

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