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The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the development of digital public health and medical applications, and forced governments to use emergency powers to access health data. This focus of Reviews, Perspectives and comments considers the myriad ways in which digital applications have been applied in the pandemic and the spectrum of privacy concerns for health data.
The rapid rollout of digital health approaches in the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has neglected to prioritize data privacy and is a missed opportunity for building users’ trust in these technologies for future outbreaks and quotidian healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an accelerated development of applications for digital health, including symptom monitoring and contact tracing. Their potential is wide ranging and must be integrated into conventional approaches to public health for best effect.
We call upon the research community to standardize efforts to use daily self-reported data about COVID-19 symptoms in the response to the pandemic and to form a collaborative consortium to maximize global gain while protecting participant privacy.
Mobile apps provide a convenient source of tracking and data collection to fight against the spread of COVID-19. We report our analysis of 50 COVID-19-related apps, including their use and their access to personally identifiable information, to ensure that the right to privacy and civil liberties are protected.
As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, teams around the world are now advocating for a new approach to monitoring transmission: tapping into cellphone location data to track infection spread and warn people who may have been exposed. Here we present data collected in Israel through this approach so far and discuss the privacy concerns, alternatives and different ‘flavors’ of cellphone surveillance. We also propose safeguards needed to minimize the risk for civil rights.
Large-scale collection of data could help curb the COVID-19 pandemic, but it should not neglect privacy and public trust. Best practices should be identified to maintain responsible data-collection and data-processing standards at a global scale.
Contact-tracing apps could help keep countries open before a vaccine is available. But do we have a sufficient understanding of their efficacy, and can we balance protecting public health with safeguarding civil rights? We interviewed five experts, with backgrounds in digital health ethics, internet law and social sciences.
Analysis of data from a smartphone-based app designed for large-scale tracking of potential COVID-19 symptoms, used by over 2.5 million participants in the United Kingdom and United States, shows that loss of taste and smell sensations is predictive of potential SARS-CoV-2 infection.
An agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission shows that testing, contact tracing and household quarantine could keep new COVID-19 waves under control while allowing the reopening of the economy with minimal social-distancing interventions.