This paper discusses ethical implications of the use of mobile phone apps to enable rapid contact tracing for the control of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many countries around the world have deployed or are developing mobile phone apps capable of supporting instantaneous contact tracing. These apps are intended both to inform public health policy and to provide alerts to individuals who have been in contact with a person with a COVID-19 infection.
The authors discuss a number of pressing ethical questions raised by the proposed use of a mobile phone app and outline some ethical considerations that need to be addressed in any deployment of this kind of approach as part of a multidimensional public health response.
Their discussion covers issues including benefits versus harms, privacy, conflicts between liberty and privacy, whether the app should be compulsory, whether data should be deleted and if so, when, and the ethics of managing emergence from lockdown. They also explore implications for the use of such an app in future infectious disease outbreaks.