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“Let us temporarily substitute for the term” freedom “of our French currency that of” responsibility “”

Grandstand. The hypothesis of using a smartphone application (for example StopCovid) to combat the spread of Covid-19 by tracking citizens infected with the virus is starting to gain ground, even to be confirmed in government . This digital tracing method would aim to make the search and notification of instant contacts upon confirmation of the case by the owner of the mobile phone.

By keeping a temporary record of proximity events between individuals, the system could immediately alert to recent close interactions and contacts with diagnosed cases and encourage those alerted to isolate themselves and be tested. The challenge would therefore be to monitor the evolution of the pandemic in real time by tracing the course of infected people in order to identify the populations likely to have been exposed to the virus and to propose appropriate public health actions with a view to progressive deconfinement.

Anonymized data

Consequently, this digital tracing is debated and worried in France that such a process does not really integrate into our western democratic culture and would seriously undermine fundamental freedoms. Under the current conditions of health emergency crisis these freedoms can be legitimately reduced in the name of the general interest and on the only condition that the measures are proportional and democratically enacted.

Read also StopCovid application: CNIL calls on the government “to be very careful”

Compliance with legal rules and the Data Protection Act are daily reaffirmed by our bodies. In particular, the president of the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (CNIL) has just reminded that digital tracking solutions would be acceptable if, and only if, they were respectful of fundamental rights (informed consent, volunteering), but that the law should be amended in cases not currently covered.

However, many ethical issues remain associated with this practice. These ethical risks concern, first of all, the total guarantee of respect for privacy and confidentiality of information relating to citizens (intrusive aspect), then the protection and security relating to their personal data.

Read also StopCovid: understanding the debate on the hopes and fears of tracing French people by their phone

An essential prerequisite would then be that the data collected is aggregated and above all completely anonymized.

A volunteer base

In addition, this practice raises the question of individual freedoms, free will and personal autonomy with changes in behavior that is forced, felt or suffered. It seems inconceivable to us that this digital strategy for identifying infected people does not work without a voluntary basis (not imposed) and their free and informed consent.

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