Dear leaders, ministers, policymakers,
We are living in complicated and somewhat uncertain times during this COVID19-pandemic. It’s very understandable that you are looking for technological solutions to a — literally — ever-growing problem of the spread of the Coronavirus. However, through this open letter, I wish to address all who are involved in the making and/or approving of the various “Corona-apps” that are being developed to monitor, control and terminate the spread of the Coronavirus.
Although I am all for finding quick solutions to problems, especially with the aid of technology, I do fear that we could fall victim to this technology eventually. Whenever a new innovation is being developed, we are always very cautious about privacy and how this new technology might impact our lives and our society. With the speed and contents of the possible Corona-apps, I fear that these standards will become much looser and the things we value, such as our ethics, privacy, and integrity, will soon be downplayed to keep the speed in developing these apps. Please don’t get me wrong: Í’m all for technology, but only when it serves society and humans and does no harm to our human rights (or limited at most, depending on the situation).
Like I mentioned before, I’m all for developing an app to help stop the spread of the virus. But the challenge lies in the clarity of everything surrounding such an app. Will it be offered to people on a voluntary basis? What are the consequences of not downloading or using such an app? Who monitors the usage and data that the app or its partners store? Do we police and forbid any form of commercial usage of the data, knowledge or any form of non-pandemic value? I’m asking these questions because the usage of such apps can have great consequences for its users. This vital data — potentially linked to one’s health — could fall into the wrong hands. We always need to use technology as a means to get ahead, get better, but never at the costs of humans nor our human rights. We can already see numerous Corona-app builders (some of who have been pre-selected by the Dutch government to potentially build such an app) that are using analytics — and advertising cookies such as Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel without telling the visitor nor offering an opt-out. This is a very concerning red flag for a company’s building an app that potentially millions of people will use. If they don’t even tell you about online cookies and advertising, how can we — as people — trust them with our location, device, and bluetooth® data?
I would urge you to keep in mind that this pandemic needs to be stopped as soon as possible, with or without the help of technology. If you choose the latter and the form of an app, please make it very transparent and set up clear guidelines, both for the developer as well as the users of the app(s). We have seen it numerous times in the past, that personal data was being sold and misused. Data of which we didn’t even know the developing or using company could see, let alone store and sell it. Please choose the option that is the safest and deny everything that is not essential for the fight against COVID19.
Thank you for keeping us and our human rights safe!
With kind regards,
Ferry Hoes (on behalf of the Brand Humanizing Team)