World Health Organisation headquarters

WHO calls for privacy focus in virus tech use

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By Yanitsa Boyadzhieva

The World Health Organisation (WHO) conceded technology played an important role in tackling Covid-19 (coronavirus), but emphasised privacy and security regulations must not be circumvented when gathering key information as part of the efforts.

At a press conference dedicated to the pandemic held on 25 March, Michael Ryan, executive director of the body’s Health Emergencies Programme, noted the pandemic was the first this century “in which the full power of information, technology, social media, AI” had been employed.

Technology was being used for communicating with communities and ensuring the accuracy of information being disseminated, he noted.

But, he added a groundswell of innovation and enthusiasm must be carefully structured to deliver products and services which are truly useful for frontline workers and systems.

An eagerness to help must also not spill over into breaching human rights by ignoring data protection regulations, he explained.

“We do always have to have in the back of our minds, especially when it comes to collecting information on individual citizens or tracking their whereabouts or movements, that there are always very serious data protection” implications.

To achieve this, he argued technology products being developed to combat the virus must “never step beyond the principles of individual freedoms” and societal rights.




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