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Privacy and Civil Liberties

The London Interdisciplinary School
13 July 2020
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50 mins read

When is it acceptable to curtail individual liberties and infringe on others’ privacy in relation to the COVID-19 crisis? These are unusual times, but how much freedom can ordinary people be expected to give up? In some countries already there is the suspicion that the pandemic is acting as a convenient smokescreen while civil liberties are being eroded far beyond what is proportionate to the crisis.

💡 Read this short essay on Ethical Guidlines for Digital Track and Tracing Systems (DDTs).

The general standpoint of the authors is contained in this passage: ‘These are extraordinary times and some extraordinary measures may be required. But the severity of the crisis does not justify using any possible means to overcome it. Fundamental rights and freedoms still need to be protected in both the physical and digital space, and guidance is urgently needed on how to ensure this protection.’

(Notice how the language and rhetoric of war and wartime measures might feed into the idea that extraordinary measures should be taken, perhaps more extraordinary measures than are justified by the actual situation.)

The authors provide a checklist of criteria that should ideally be met for the use of DDTs. As you read, think about the fundamental rights and freedoms that might be affected by the use of DDTs.

📚 Take it further: the ethics of using human ‘guinea pigs’ in research
Read this recent essay from the New York Review of Books An ethical path to a covid vaccine’​ on the ethics of using human beings in the search for a treatment or vaccine that is effective against the virus. As you read this question, think hard about whether you would be prepared to take the risks involved in being a subject of vaccine research, and whether it is reasonable that anyone should do this.

Jennifer Haller

Jennifer Haller, the first person to be injected in a clinical trial of a potential vaccine for Covid-19, Seattle, March 2020

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