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In a worldwide pandemic, there’s a tightrope that needs to be walked between privacy and public health. It’s the balance that is struck every time the public is asked to wear masks, or when incoming international travellers are required to quarantine. If the public fails to temporarily limit their movements and change their behaviours, it can ultimately result in the proliferation of a deadly disease and its variants.
Quarantine enforcement has long been an effective tool for countries to manage the spread of COVID-19, and technology has been used in different ways by countries to aid in its effectiveness. But with the use of technology in privacy-sensitive areas like quarantine enforcement, there is an important discussion to be had about civil liberties and the purported invasion of privacy that can result.
For too long, rights-focused countries like Canada have grappled with the false dichotomy of privacy vs. civil liberties, where one concept must win entirely at the expense of the other. This false dichotomy exists even though human rights legislation worldwide is predicated on the notion of balance between rights.
Fortunately, a Canadian-born framework called Privacy by Design ensures that if a technology is built on its seven principles, it can respect user privacy without sacrificing essential technical features.
This white paper explores the use of technology in quarantine enforcement, the resulting privacy and civil liberty issues, and argues that when technologies are built on strong privacy principles, they can effectively strike a balance between privacy and public health and help governments build trust with their citizens.
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