Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tech industry has been hard at work developing potential solutions to help fight the virus. One of the more prominent proposals has been for the use of Digital Contact Tracing (DCT), the technical application of manual contact tracing methods. DCT quickly became a topic of hot debate, as privacy and trust concerns were thrust into the spotlight as never before. Suddenly, ethical principles that had been discussed theoretically at length had a clear actionable case study plastering headlines as society began to understand the importance of ethics in emerging technology and the risks that unchecked innovation holds.
Although there is now a clear call for the incorporation of ethical principles in DCT applications, the path to such is not certain. There is no rule book for how to implement DCT while still respecting human rights and ethics, no clear cut guide laying out each step to take. However, this does not mean that we are without a solution. As we look to roll out DCT applications to help fight the coronavirus, it is vital that these applications undergo due diligence ethics audits if we are to respect human dignity.
The purpose of this paper is to illustrate, from a high level perspective, what it would look like to run a preliminary ethics audit on a DCT application, with the hope that it may provide some guiding structure to those currently working on similar applications.
To demonstrate such, we will be evaluating a hypothetical Bluetooth Digital Contact Tracing application against the seven principles laid out by the European Union’s High-Level Expert Ethics Guidelines. For each of the seven principles we will highlight the essential considerations that must be made in order to embed the principle into practice in terms of the chosen technology. These considerations are not only applicable to DCT, but also exemplify the high-level process any COVID-19 tech should be undertaking.