COVID Tracking Apps “Standardize Monitoring” of Daily Activities: AlgorithimWatch

Among the group’s recommendations: favor an “evidence-based” approach when deploying automated decision-making technology and clearly limit its use to avoid “opaque mass deployments” harmful to democracy.


The report documented false starts and pitfalls associated with rushing new and untested technologies, focusing primarily on European countries.

At the start of an initial 2020 lockdown, Belgian police planned to use drones to monitor social distancing, but dropped the idea after a backlash. There has also been a tendency to use security cameras originally installed to combat serious crime and terrorism in an example of ‘downgrading’ – where the technology is used for different purposes than originally intended. . This has resulted in an increased risk of a “surveillance society,” according to the report.

Contact tracing applications have flourished. Most are based on technology jointly developed by Apple and Google and use Bluetooth signals to anonymously register all smartphones that have been in close and prolonged contact with a phone belonging to a person who tested positive.

But the absorption was uneven. For example, there is evidence that the Cypriot government’s tracing application “has not been widely adopted,” according to the report.

The Dutch government’s CoronaCheck vaccination status application was plagued by problems. Due to the decentralized and privacy-sensitive design, its QR code could not be revoked if a user tested positive, allowing continued access to places requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test result. It was also possible to manipulate the app to get a false test result, according to the report.

The Dutch Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

An Estonian chatbot used on a number of public websites gave incorrect information about COVID-19. In one case in October, he reported that there was no vaccination available against the virus.

The Polish government has developed an algorithm to verify the tax residency of entrepreneurs so that they can receive financial assistance in the event of a pandemic, but it has been criticized for not disclosing details of the algorithm that could be used. to assess its effectiveness.

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