Contact-tracing app must protect people’s privacy

Amnesty International says the new contact-tracing app expected to be rolled out in the next few weeks may be a useful tool in our journey to a COVID-19-free New Zealand, but checks and balances must be assured to protect people's rights.

Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand Advocacy and Policy Manager Annaliese Johnston says data privacy and surveillance internationally is becoming an increasing concern.

“Everyone has the right to health, which includes protection from COVID-19 and the use of technology can, and should be, an essential tool in our efforts to eliminate it. But it also has the potential to erode trust if the way in which technology is used is not completely transparent. The public need to know exactly what privacy protections will be in place.”

Annaliese Johnston, Advocacy and Policy Manager, Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand

Johnston says there are human rights standards at play that must be both assured and communicated well publicly.

“We are pleased to see that the Privacy Commissioner has been consulted on the development of this app and that it will be voluntary in New Zealand. But further assurances are needed including that any data collected can only ever be used for the purposes of eliminating COVID-19 in New Zealand. Additionally, the data collection must be time-bound in relation to the pandemic and the data must not used for any commercial or other purposes that could be discriminatory. It’s essential the public is assured that private information is secure and collection efforts are subject to independent oversight.”

She adds New Zealand has an opportunity to show other countries ignoring these standards how a human rights-respecting response to eliminating COVID-19 can be accomplished.

“New Zealand has an opportunity to do things differently from other countries that are breaching international human rights standards when it comes to tracking and using people’s personal information in a pandemic. We look forward to seeing details from the Government on how New Zealand can lead the way to ensuring all human rights are protected, for everyone.”

Annaliese Johnston, Advocacy and Policy Manager, Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand