It has always been the responsibility of policymakers and tech leaders to implement transparent, fair, and ethically sound applications especially if it involves sensitive information. However, that responsibility is even more realized these days due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
On the topic of contact tracing apps, the first step for it to be widely adopted and therefore effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19 is to gain the trust of the public.
The European Commission in 2019 published the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, which every organization should adopt and stay committed to. The guide promotes seven principles for the application of AI technologies, which are:
- Diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness
- Privacy and data governance
- Societal and environmental well-being
- Technical robustness and safety
- Human agency and oversight
The guideline was designed in order to assert the right of the public to know which technology systems are affecting their day-to-day lives and how these systems are impacting them. It's also said in the guideline that organizations must always practice transparency and disclose the purpose of a certain technology and its applications in order for the masses to be fully aware of its impact.
These principles must be applied in the implementation and use of contact tracing apps. Such systems are essential to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic and protect public health and safety, but it should meet a specific set of criteria for it not to be condemned by the public and gain its trust.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has proposed a criteria for the use of technologies related to COVID-19, which states that the use of such technologies must be only out of medical necessity, in accordance to the advice of public health authorities.
The EFF also states that any personal data gathered should be in proportion to the needs of health authorities, and that the technology should not come with bias and discriminatory implications.
It's clear that technology is a massive help in order to successfully defeat the virus once and for all. But to get to that goal, tech companies, governments, and health organizations practice fairness and transparency at all times.
People are naturally scared of anything new to them, and it in the case of new technologies, it's quite difficult to place one's trust especially these days that privacy has become a widespread technological issue. For the public to adopt such technologies, the ethical use of AI should be practiced.