October 19, 2021

Johns Hopkins Releases Report on Digital Contact Tracing to Aid COVID-19 Response

From Johns Hopkins University:

Johns Hopkins University today released a comprehensive report to help government, technology developers, businesses, institutional leaders, and the public make responsible decisions around use of digital contact tracing technology, including smartphone apps and other tools, to fight COVID-19.

Digital Contact Tracing for Pandemic Response—a report led by JHU’s Berman Institute for Bioethics in collaboration with the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins, as well as leading experts worldwide—highlights the ethical, legal, policy, and governance issues that must be addressed as digital contact tracing technologies, or DCTT, are developed and implemented.

The report’s primary conclusions and recommendations advise that:

  • Privacy should not outweigh public health goals and other values
  • Big technology companies should not unilaterally set terms when such broad public interests are at stake

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The report makes numerous recommendations, including:

  • Technology design should not be static. There is no “one size fits all” approach. Design should be capable of evolving depending upon local conditions, new evidence, and changing preferences and priorities.
  • Technology companies alone should not control the terms, conditions, or capabilities of DCTT. Nor should they presume to know what is acceptable to members of the public.
  • DCTT should be designed to have a base set of features that protect privacy, with layers of additional capabilities that users can choose to activate. A default should be that user location data are not shared, but users should be provided with easy mechanisms and prompts to allow for opting-in to this capability, especially if opting-in is critical to achieving public health goals.
  • De-identified data collected through DCTT should be made available to public health professionals and researchers to support population-level studies and analyses.
  • Those who authorize use of DCTT within a particular jurisdiction or institution should continuously and systematically monitor the technology’s performance in that context. This should include monitoring for effectiveness and benefit, monitoring for harms and monitoring for the fair distribution of both benefits and harms.
  • Governments should not require mandatory use of DCTT given the uncertainty about potential burdens and benefits. Additional technology, user and real-world testing is needed.
  • Congress should enact legislation specifically tailored to use of DCTT as part of the response to COVID-19, which would facilitate uses of DTCC to promote the public health response while protecting citizens.
  • Decisions about the technology and its uses will have to be constantly updated as new information becomes available

Direct to Article/Summary

Direct to Full Text Report: Digital Contact Tracing for Pandemic Response (via Project Muse)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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