Principles for using information technology in response to COVID-19

Joining over 80 partner organizations, the Prison Policy Initiative signs on to a set of principles calling for the protection of privacy and democracy as the technology sector responds to the pandemic.

by Jenny Landon, June 12, 2020

As the United States begins to consider strategies for reopening, we signed on to a set of principles designed to guide policymakers, businesses, and public health officials in the use of information technology to help quell the virus.

Too often, information technology is weaponized against communities of color, undocumented people, and other marginalized communities to track and monitor their whereabouts and behaviors.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is heartening to see the tech world step up with potential solutions for containment. However, plans to reopen must not harm those already suffering disproportionately from the health and economic fallout of the virus.

The letter reads, in part:

No COVID-19 response technology has been proven trustworthy and effective for combating the pandemic in the United States. The principles state that use of such technology must only be allowed if it is:

  • Nondiscriminatory
  • Used Exclusively for Public Health Purposes
  • Effective
  • Voluntary
  • Secure
  • Accountable

For more information, check out the full text of the principles, as well as the list co-signing organizations.

To learn more about how information technology negatively impacts marginalized communities and democracy, you can read Stephen Raher’s book review Automated Justice: A Review of Weapons of Math Destruction.

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