March 27, 2020

Health Surveillance Is Here to Stay

By Carrie Cordero and Richard Fontaine

Washington’s post-9/11 debate about how much surveillance a free society should allow has suddenly become about much more than counterterrorism and national security. Amid today’s global pandemic, key technology companies are in talks with federal and state governments about employing their tools against Covid-19. Facebook, which holds a trove of geolocation information, is sharing disease-migration maps. Clearview AI, a facial-recognition tech firm, may be able to track infected patients and identify people they have met. Smart thermometers are recording and transmitting fevers in real time. The data firm Palantir is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect and analyze vast information streams.

All this and more, we hope, will help to stop the virus in its tracks, save lives and help Americans get back to normal. But such efforts—done in haste—also raise searching questions about the balance between privacy and public health. Decisions being made on the fly by governments, private firms and individuals will change the country’s digital social contract for years to come.

Read the full article in The Wall Street Journal.

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