World Privacy Forum: Trust critical for success of govt Covid-19 apps
07 May 2020 15:22 GMT

Advocacy group the World Privacy Forum has warned that public trust in government-backed apps and the use of centralised architectures are among key concerns facing global efforts to use mobile technology to combat the spread of COVID-19.

In a speech given to the virtual event the Festival of Identity this week, WPF founder and executive director Pam Dixon gave a rigorously detailed run-down of numerous jurisdictions’ COVID-19 track and trace app solutions, including their advantages and disadvantages.

Some countries have developed decentralised solutions that enable anonymous tracking that provides health authorities with vital data to track the virus’ spread. But others such as Israel’s - a project run by the national Shin Bet security agency - pose a greater potential threat to civil liberties.

“Governments must retain trust, or the whole system fails,” said Dixon. “In particular, national identity systems have fallen through due to a lack of trust… and centralised architectures do not earn trust.”

Dixon said that whether the apps are voluntary or mandatory was a key issue, raising the possibility that a mandatory roll-out could be the norm, potentially through employment conditions as has happened in India.

She also warned against mission creep, questioned whether the apps will have a “sunset” date and be used to track citizens indefinitely, and asked what entities will ultimately be given access to the global publics’ data.

To see the full version of this event, click here.

To register for more Festival of Identity events, click here.

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