Event Title

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Privacy Invasion During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mentor 1

Celeste Campos-Castillo

Start Date

16-4-2021 12:00 AM

Description

Privacy has been an important topic of discussion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some amount of surveillance of the public is necessary to conduct contact tracing, track symptoms and outcomes of the illness, but these practices are typically subject to privacy laws. Due to fears of contracting COVID-19, the public might demand personally identifiable information of those infected, especially in the early stages of the pandemic when the number of cases is low, and the occurrence of the virus is more sporadic. As the number of cases rise and community spread occurs, this level of detail regarding who is infected becomes less relevant. In this project, we analyzed user comments to US newspaper articles about privacy during the pandemic to identify public attitudes towards privacy of those infected with COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic. The analysis reveals a decoupling between the perceived and actual benefits of knowing the personally identifiable information of those infected with the virus. Further, in the absence of such information, the public may turn to stereotypes about who may carry the virus to infer who has it. This study highlights the benefits and drawbacks of privacy invasion during public health emergencies.

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Apr 16th, 12:00 AM

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Privacy Invasion During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Privacy has been an important topic of discussion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some amount of surveillance of the public is necessary to conduct contact tracing, track symptoms and outcomes of the illness, but these practices are typically subject to privacy laws. Due to fears of contracting COVID-19, the public might demand personally identifiable information of those infected, especially in the early stages of the pandemic when the number of cases is low, and the occurrence of the virus is more sporadic. As the number of cases rise and community spread occurs, this level of detail regarding who is infected becomes less relevant. In this project, we analyzed user comments to US newspaper articles about privacy during the pandemic to identify public attitudes towards privacy of those infected with COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic. The analysis reveals a decoupling between the perceived and actual benefits of knowing the personally identifiable information of those infected with the virus. Further, in the absence of such information, the public may turn to stereotypes about who may carry the virus to infer who has it. This study highlights the benefits and drawbacks of privacy invasion during public health emergencies.