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Covid-19 and Contact Tracing Apps: Ethical challenges for a social experiment on a global scale

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Federica Lucivero, Tamar Sharon, Nina Hallowel, Gabrielle Samuel, Barbara Prainsack

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Published28 Jul 2020

King's Authors


Mobile applications are increasingly regarded as important tools for an integrated strategy of infection containment in post-lockdown societies around the globe. This paper discusses a number of questions that should be addressed when assessing the ethical challenges of mobile applications for digital contact-tracing of COVID-19: Which safeguards should be designed in the technology? Who should access data? What is a legitimate role for “Big Tech” companies in the development and implementation of these systems? How should cultural and behavioural issues be accounted for in the design of these apps? Should use of these apps be compulsory? What does transparency and ethical oversight mean in this context? We demonstrate that responses to these questions are complex and contingent and argue that if digital contract-tracing is used, then it should be clear that this is on a trial basis and its use should be subject to independent monitoring and evaluation.

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