Personal data and privacy again in the spotlight as the government considers the implementation of digital tracking in the upcoming decontrol process!
Eternal questioning of a well-known dilemma! Here we are once again dealing with the fundamental and existential issues of the balance between technological progress and respect for the individual in his or her intimacy:
- Are we ready to take full advantage of our innovations and at what cost?
- Are we ready to embrace, to exploit technology in all that it offers us?
- Would our freedom to create be limited when our privacy (our freedom to be) is exposed?
- Is ethics a brake, a paradox or a value to be preserved at all costs as a safeguard against all-technology?
So many questions have been raised over the last few days, and this COVID-19 crisis is definitely a challenge for us in many ways!
Different schools of thought have been expressed on the "pros" and "cons" of a mobile application that would track our movements after the lockdown easing.
- The "yes" supporters: because it is a matter of our survival, of our health, any solution is good to try to stop this pandemic, to continue to live as "normally" as possible, without fear.
- The "no" side: No to exposing our personal data, no to intruding on our privacy. The very purpose of these applications is questioned. This population doubts the sincerity of the approach, the transparency, and therefore the trust that would be a missing piece of the chessboard.
The benefit versus risk ("Trade-off") is weighed up by both sides, with the benefit for one side materialising what constitutes a risk for the other... and vice versa.
But isn't it already too late to ask ourselves these questions, as we have (for most of us) already accepted these improvements. To illustrate just a few of them:
- The digitalisation of our businesses
- Scientific progress and the emergence of remote medical acts (teleconsulting, robotic surgery)
- Social networks and the personal data they carry
- BigData, Artificial Intelligence, ...
- "On demand" consumption which continues to widen its path since the emergence of e-commerce
- And many other innovations that will undoubtedly become even more important!
This crisis has already been a catalyst, has already caused an acceleration of these changes and new services in a context where the population is massively confined.
With each major technological breakthrough or innovation, we have given our agreement (sometimes induced) for our comfort, to exist, to live in this new society that we have all participated in creating: yes, our personal data are already digitalised, yes, we are all listed in the databases of such and such an organisation or institution, etc. So let's stop kidding ourselves about the threat that such a tool would pose to our private lives, when it is simply the spontaneous, technological response of our time to the crisis. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
My questions on this debate would rather focus on the effectiveness of this solution, a question which should enlighten us as to whether the game is really worth the candle:
- Technically, arithmetically, and then materially, could we really contain this pandemic?
- Will this solution (a priori non-mandatory, moreover!) protect us completely today, at the advanced stage of propagation?
- Finally, we did not anticipate the implementation of such a solution, which will therefore not have been fully tested either in terms of efficiency or legal compliance (RGPD).
Since technology is not inherently ethical, it is the use we make of these technologies that will enable or guarantee them to be ethical. Consequently, we will be uncompromising about the use of these tools and the data they collect. We will, for example, be careful to ensure that data security criteria are taken into account in the development of these tracking solutions (security by design).
Above all, we must now focus our thoughts and actions on a societal contract that will guide the governance of our data, based on trust, transparency and integrity.