Covid 19 map confirmed cases reported worldwide globally.

Emerging Themes from the “Global Responses to COVID-19” Symposium

By Alicia Ely Yamin

The shape of the COVID-19 pandemic and legal responses to it are changing rapidly across different contexts.  Nonetheless, many of the issues raised in this global symposium will undoubtedly be the subject of scholarly and policy debates for the foreseeable future. Here I synthesize three emerging themes regarding structural challenges and democratic design.

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Bogota, Colombia.

General Quarantine, Social Emergency, and Economic Crisis: COVID-19 in Colombia

By Isabel C. Jaramillo Sierra

The first case of COVID-19 diagnosed in Colombia was declared on March 6th. The first COVID-19-related death occurred on March 16.

Between the first known case and the first death in Colombia, the government took action to stop the spread of the disease. All of these decisions, insofar as they are considered part of ordinary police powers, will be reviewed by the State Council as to their legality. The State Council has decided to review 400 administrative acts that it has identified as related to the emergency.

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Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

COVID-19 and the State of Alarm vis-à-vis Human Rights in Spain

By Dorothy Estrada-Tanck

As of May 20, 2020, Spain had the second highest per capita rate of COVID-19 deaths in the world, with 59.5 deaths per 100,000.

In response to the coronavirus crisis, Spain declared a state of alarm on 14 March 2020, which lasted for fifteen days. It did so through “Royal Decree 463/2020, declaring a state of alarm to manage the health crisis caused by COVID-19,” adopted by left-wing Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Council of Ministers in the executive branch of government and signed by King Philip VI. The state of alarm has been prolonged through Royal Decrees five times to last until June 7th.

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German Bundestag.

Germany’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sara Gerke

Many countries are looking these days to Germany’s approach to combating COVID-19. Although Germany initially experienced a high case rate, the country has been able to slow the spread of the virus and appears to have the situation better “under control” than other countries.

There may be various reasons for Germany’s successful handling of the pandemic so far, ranging from early testing for COVID-19 to high public outreach and transparency to increasing the number of ICU beds and ventilators.

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Cartoon of contact tracing for COVID-19.

Community Organizations Can Reduce the Privacy Impacts of Surveillance During COVID-19

By Adrian Gropper

Until scientists discover a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, our economy and our privacy will be at the mercy of imperfect technology used to manage the pandemic response.

Contact tracing, symptom capture and immunity assessment are essential tools for pandemic response, which can benefit from appropriate technology. However, the effectiveness of these tools is constrained by the privacy concerns inherent in mass surveillance. Lack of trust diminishes voluntary participation. Coerced surveillance can lead to hiding and to the injection of false information.

But it’s not a zero-sum game. The introduction of local community organizations as trusted intermediaries can improve participation, promote trust, and reduce the privacy impact of health and social surveillance.

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Crowd of small symbolic 3d figures linked by lines

Why ‘Mandatory Privacy-Preserving Digital Contact Tracing’ is the Ethical Measure Against COVID-19

Cross-posted from Medium, where it originally appeared on April 10, 2020. 

By Cansu Canca

Thanks to privacy-by-design technology, population-wide mandatory use of digital contact tracing apps (DCT) can be both more efficient and more respectful of privacy than conventional manual contact tracing, and considerably less intrusive than current lockdowns. Even if counterintuitive, mandatory private-by-design DCT is therefore the only ethical option for fighting COVID-19.

Click here to read the full post on Medium.

(image via higyou / Shutterstock.com)

Photograph of a doctor in blue scrubs overlaid with an illustration of a padlock

Anonymity in the Time of a Pandemic: Privacy vs. Transparency

By Cansu Canca

As coronavirus cases increase worldwide, institutions keep their communities informed with frequent updates—but only up to a point. They share minimal information such as number of cases, but omit the names of individuals and identifying information.

Many institutions are legally obligated to protect individual privacy, but is this prohibition of transparency ethically justified?

Some even go a step further and ask you, an individual in a community, to choose privacy over transparency as well. Harvard—alongside with  Yale, Chicago, and Northwestern—requests you to “Please Respect Individuals’ Privacy. Anonymity for these individuals remains paramount. Please respect their privacy—even if you believe you know who they are—so they can focus completely on their health” (emphasis in original).

But do you have an ethical obligation to do so at the time of a pandemic?

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phone camera

More perils of U.S. sectoral privacy law

By Leslie Francis

A recent unpublished decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals brings the perils of sectoral privacy law into sharp focus: Furlow v. Madonna Summit of Byron, 2020 WL 413356 (Minn. App. 2020) (unpublished).  Minnesota protects patient health records but not, apparently, photographs of patients posted on social media by health care facility staff.

V.F. was a patient at Madonna Summit of Byron, a senior living facility with independent living, assisted living, and memory care units. Jane Doe was a nursing assistant at Madonna. After V.F. pulled a fire alarm, annoying Jane, Jane snapped a photograph of V.F. and posted it on her personal social media page.  Jane captioned the photo: “This little sh-t just pulled the fire alarm and now I have to call 911!!! Woohoo.” The photo contained no further identifying information.  It didn’t name V.F., say where she lived, or identify Jane Doe or where she worked. It was, however posted on Jane Doe’s personal account, thus identifying Jane Doe to those with access to her account. V.F.’s personal representative sued for damages under the Minnesota Health Records Act. The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of the complaint, concluding that the social media post was not release of a “health record” under Minnesota law. Read More