Should We Give Up Privacy to Fight Coronavirus?

Last fall, my wife was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had just recently finished her chemotherapy treatments. Because her immune system has been severely weakened, the COVID-19 threat to her health is potentially lethal. We decided to isolate well before the stay-at-home directives from state and local governments. 

By now we’re all familiar with one of the key ethical dilemmas that’s arisen during the pandemic: Do we isolate from one another and risk a catastrophic economic downturn, disproportionately hurting the poor and vulnerable but protecting the elderly and the high-risk, like my wife? Or do we risk public health by keeping the economy open?

Another ethical issue, however, is also emerging. It concerns the question of how best to use data and tracking technology to protect human life, while at the same time not sacrificing our personal privacy.