Contact tracing must balance 'privacy and values': Johns Hopkins report's 7 standards

Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University provided guidance for responsible and ethical digital contact tracing with technology that includes smartphone apps in its new report, "Digital Contact Tracing for Pandemic Response."

"As we move forward, we must strike a balance between privacy and values like equity, choice, economic well-being and solidarity," said Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, director of Johns Hopkins University's Berman Institute for Bioethics. "Too much emphasis on privacy could severely limit the ability to gather information that is critical for effective and efficient contact tracing to help beat the pandemic, and so the full range of interests and values of the public must drive this conversation — and not just those asserted by tech companies."

The report authors concluded that privacy shouldn't outweigh public health goals, but also that big technology companies shouldn't unilaterally set the terms for contact tracing. The report recommends:

1. The technology design should be flexible and have the ability to change based on local conditions, new evidence and evolving preferences.

2. Technology companies and healthcare leaders should work together to develop acceptable terms and conditions of contact tracing.

3. Digital contact tracing should protect patient privacy and allow users to activate which data they want to share with easy opt-in options.

4. Public health professionals and researchers should have access to the deidentified patient data collected through the digital contact tracing.

5. The digital contact tracing technology's performance should be continuously monitored for effectiveness, benefits and harms, and fair distribution of both the benefits and harms.

6. Digital contact tracing shouldn't be required by the government.

7. Congress should develop laws around digital contact-tracing technology as part of the COVID-19 response to protect citizens while promoting public health.

More articles on digital transformation:
How COVID-19 is changing health IT expectations & what it means for patients
Digital health companies hiring as hospitals continue to furlough
Mount Sinai will use FCC grant to develop telehealth app


Copyright © 2023 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars