Victoria Sutton, law professor at Texas Tech, is blogging about coronavirus on her Biominute Blog. Lots of great analysis there.
Particularly worth a look is her discussion of regulations requiring airlines to collect information about passengers for reporting to public health authorities to facilitate contact tracing. Her particular focus is on new U.S. regulations, found in 42 CFR 70 & 71, which allows the CDC to issue orders requiring airlines to provide such information.
Professor Sutton tells a surprising and wince-inducing story of meeting a passenger on a flight in mid March who found out he had previously been on a flight with a passenger who’d tested positive for COVID-19. The twist is that the passenger didn’t find this out by being contacted by public health authorities or the airlines. Instead, he found out about it on the news.
One of the reasons South Korea may be having so much more success in battling the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to its massive testing program, is its phone-based tracing technology. If you know where people are and where they have been, positive test results can allow you to direct that exposed individuals self-isolate immediately. That can help arrest the spread.
In a March 30, 2020 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Glenn Archer and Luciana Borio call for “engaging entrepreneurs, public-health experts, privacy advocates, constitutional lawyers and legislators” to take a look at tech-centered proposals to see what might work in a technological and epidemiological sense while also protecting freedom and privacy. They offer this specific proposal:
“Here is an idea that could work: The federal government should establish a public-trust, nonprofit entity to oversee the development and implementation of digital contact-tracing capability. This entity could develop a contact-tracing app that Americans would voluntarily download. After a user provided consent, each phone would generate an anonymous identification number. When app users are in proximity, the numbers would be exchanged via Bluetooth and stored for a limited time.”
by Eric E. Johnson
published March 31, 2020