Trading Privacy for Safety

April 2021

The pandemic has sped up adoption and use of technologies and procedures that infringe on privacy while intending to improve safety.  Many will remain in use after the pandemic has subsided.

Before entering a building, it is now common to stand six feet apart waiting to be granted access, then required to use hand sanitizer and wear a mask.  These measures may soon be supplemented by technologies for monitoring our activities and recording health data.

A digital sensor can be used to ensure an individual doesn’t have a fever or elevated temperature.  For those whose normal temperature runs a little high, this could be a problem.

Wearable technology in the form of wristbands loaded with a contact tracing app can allow residents to feel more confident that neighbours are healthy.

Software is available to verify employees are symptom-free before starting work each day.  In the event of an outbreak, it can be used to trace those who need to be isolated and identify areas or equipment to be sanitized.

With so many working from home, there is now software to track what employees are doing when they can’t be seen.  It can monitor how much time employees spend in various apps or programs, and can take screenshots at set intervals.

Any surveillance technology is a trade-off between security and privacy.  There is no proof, thus far, that these technologies improve safety, health or productivity.  Data is being collected, possibly without sufficient protection against theft, hacking or misuse.  These technologies are becoming more readily accepted in a workplace environment and may soon migrate to residential communities.

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