Contact tracing apps need to ensure they are used for stated purpose only: UNIGF Secretariat Head
Privacy is an important policy aspect of contact-tracing apps being developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it needs to be ensured that these apps are used for their stated purpose only, United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Secretariat Head Chengetai Masango said on Monday.
"I'll just say one word, privacy. We must be sure that the app and its stated purpose is used for that, (and) not by governments, companies, etc, to find out who you're talking to, or where you're going," Masango said at the BIF-BE's The Digital Dialogues series on Internet Governance.
Facebook Director (Public Policy) Ankhi Das echoed similar views.
"I think privacy and surveillance, whether public or private, those two are the most important risks. So, purpose limitation is important and then making sure that you are having transparent disclosures," she said.
Das noted that there is a need for standards by IGF for the apps to operate in a way that it respects human rights as well as privacy principles.
With the number of COVID-19 cases going up, a number of contact-tracing mobile apps have been introduced globally. Some of these are backed by various governments and national health agencies, and Google and Apple have also developed a framework for such apps.
This has also raised questions around the privacy of individuals' data that such apps may access, and the potential abuse of such platforms.
Das said COVID-19 has brought home how central internet has become for human life.
"Whether it is to stay connected with friends and family or making sure you have a path to accessing markets, so that despite the economic contraction which is happening, there is a way to address economic well being and engage in trade and commerce," Das said.
At the same time, it has brought to the fore the importance of continuing to invest in developing public trust in this important medium, she added.
Das said the IGF should, as part of its road map on digital cooperation, also look into areas like future of commerce (particularly digital trade), blockchain, digital payments, health and contact tracing in the post-coronavirus era.