In our previous blog post, we highlighted responses of organizations and government to the COVID-19 pandemic, with increasing policies and a strong recommendation to adopt social distancing to lessen the virus spread. Today, we summarize digital responses to COVID-19 by stakeholders, most of which center on raising concerns about citizen's privacy, and the ethical use of gathered data during, and after this crisis. For example, in the United Kingdom, the government is set to release a 'contact tracking' app, which detects nearby virus carriers, while in South Africa the publication of fake news related to COVID-19, has been criminalized by the government. In the United States, the Internet Society has warned that giving third-party access to encrypted data "creates a major vulnerability that weakens the security of law-abiding citizens and the internet at large."
Also, as factors beyond our control continue to reshape and redefine the nature of work, Slack (a favorite tool of NDItech) has provided teleworking guides to make the transition to virtual work environments smooth.
As we highlighted in the last round-up, Reuter's Graphics is providing readers with a real-time illustration of the spread of COVID-19, showing people affected with the rising casualties since the virus broke out in China. At this moment, over have been infected globally, with 58,645 deaths (note: by the time you read this, the numbers may be much worse).
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COVID-19 Digital Responses
- The use of data and technology in efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus has increased the need for a human-rights centric approach to handling data. 'Access Now' has provided recommendations for governments on privacy and data protection, in emerging measures for tackling COVID-19. “The question is not if governments can use data and tech to help fight the virus but how; our human rights-centric recommendations will assist decision-makers in this process,” said Estelle Massé, Global Lead on Data Protection at Access Now.
- Designing efficient virtual meetings has become more apparent, as COVID-19 continues to present complex challenges for organizations and governments to continue scheduled programming. Here is a simple framework to assist in efficiently hosting virtual meetings.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to force government leaders to make smarter choices by investing in IT modernization, to allow for continuity in government. Currently, many government agencies do not have an existing tech capacity to scale and meet pressing demands.
- As many organizations transition to remote work, Doist argues that remote teams can be more efficient through asynchronous communication- where organizations do not expect immediate feedback from individuals, to give room for deep, focused work.
- According to the Web Foundation, communication is crucial during a health emergency, and failing to bridge the digital divide could create obstacles in addressing the spread of COVID-19. With only 54% of the population connected to the internet, it is more important than ever to secure access for everyone.
- Freedom House raises concerns that emergency responses put into place to ease the spread of the virus can potentially have “discriminatory impacts and harmful effects” if kept in place indefinitely after the crisis has passed. In response they’ve developed principles for protecting civil and political rights in the wake of COVID-19.
With millions on lockdown, Facebook and Twitter are major sources of COVID-19 news. They’re also where misinformation thrives. The MIT Technology Review offers suggestions for how social media can combat the spread of the COVID-19 “infodemic.”
The U.S government is seeking data, digital, and operational capacity from qualified people who would volunteer in a non-partisan effort to assist Federal, State, and Local governments with technology relief mechanisms and other needs during the COVID_19 crisis.
- With social media networks cracking down on the spread of COVID-19 related misinformation, bad actors are turning to viral text messages instead, such as propagating false claims of ‘martial law,’ which experts are calling "a literal game of telephone" in text-messaging apps.
- "Arbitrary arrests, surveillance, phone tapping and privacy breaches" have spiked acrossCentral and Southeast Europe as governments impose emergency laws to combat the spread of misinformation on COVID-19. Allie Funk, a Research Analyst for Freedom on the Net, a Freedom House team monitoring internet freedom, critiques these actions as alarming, and an opportunity for some authorities to exploit the crisis for their political gain by enhancing surveillance, increasing censorship, and restricting the free flow of information.
- End-to-end encryption, the selling point of WhatsApp, a messaging platform owned by Facebook, may prove to be a challenge in addressing misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cristina Tardaguila, Associate Director of Poynter's International Fact-Checking Network, noted that "WhatsApp's privacy features mean there's no way to search for conspiracy theories to stop their spread."