The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) has been awarded a new grant from the European Artificial Intelligence Fund to research the human rights implications of COVID-19 contact tracing apps.
A deep dive into contact tracing apps
Liberties and member organizations joining the project will use the grant to conduct a comprehensive research on how different centralized and decentralized contact tracing apps work, what kinds of data they collect, and how those data are processed.
The research will also examine how efficient these apps are, how transparently they operate, and how the apps could exacerbate existing problems in society, such as the disappearance of not-surveilled public and private spaces, discrimination or social exclusion.The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the many ways that giving technological solutions to social problems may present challenges to human rights, and this is especially true when it comes to contact tracing apps.
“As this is the first time most European governments introduce smartphone applications for the common good (in this case, protecting public health), this is the time when our shared understanding of what is and is not legitimate to do through smartphone apps will crystallize. We need to make sure that we do not end up in a future where the common good justifies all sorts of intrusions into our private lives,” Dr. Orsolya Reich, senior advocacy officer at Liberties, said.
Identifying these issues is only the first step. We must also comprehensively research these human rights issues in order to understand how human rights were affected, which aspects of the apps worked and which did not, and what we can improve next time to better protect public health and our rights.
The European AI Fund
The European Artificial Intelligence Fund is a philanthropic initiative to shape the direction of AI in Europe. It awards grants to advance research and evidence gathering into the role that data and technology play in Europe’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The European AI Fund believes that by identifying lessons today will allow a more informed, collective responses in the future. Its long-term goal is to “promote an ecosystem of European public interest and civil society organizations working on policy and technology, based on a diversity of actors and a plurality of goals that represents society as a whole.”
More from Liberties:
Our response to the EU Commission's White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, in which we push for more impact assessments into how technology impacts our human rights.
Liberties members in 9 EU countries filed Freedom of Information requests to their national authorities regarding the new contact-tracing, symptom-tracking and quarantine-enforcing applications introduced to control the spread of Covid-19.