While electronic bracelets are a preferable alternative to enforced isolation in COVID-19 “hotels,” it is important to explicitly define the purpose for which these bracelets are to be used, to restrict access to the data they produce, and to maintain a high level of security regarding this sensitive personal information.
Are electronic bracelets an innovation? Not really.
Intelligent speed adaptation systems are also constantly monitoring our location, though the bracelets tend to be based on more accurate technology than that used for cellphone location monitoring, and as a result, are much more intrusive.
On the other hand, bracelets annoy us because they are much more visible and prominent, as compared with the invisible or surreptitious use made of our personal data (whether location data, health details, or other).
Thus, if it is possible to use bracelets instead of forcing people into quarantine outside their homes in hotels, then this is clearly a better option.
In the current case, infringement of the right to privacy is preferable to infringement of the right to freedom of movement.
Like all the policy ideas that have been quickly cooked up in the course of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the use of electronic bracelets raises several questions that currently have no answers.
Some of these have to do with privacy. Who will have to wear the bracelets? Who will receive the information on an ongoing basis (the Ministry of Health, the police)? Who will keep this information secure? Who will have access to it, and for what purposes? What will be done with this information once the period of quarantine is over?
A second set of questions relates to contracts. Which commercial company has been chosen to provide the bracelets’ technology? Why this company? How will it be ensured that it will properly handle the data it collects? We do not want a repeat of the My Heritage scandal in which the company was able to do whatever it wanted with sensitive DNA information?
In short, it will be necessary to anchor this decision in legislation and in regulations that will provide answers to these questions.
It should also be noted that this may be a replication of the idea developed in Singapore to track people (mainly older people) via wearable technology along with the use of contact-tracing apps.
In this context, it is worth noting that Singapore is not a democratic state, and that as was recently revealed in the Financial Times, the country also uses its COVID-19 contact-tracing system to transfer information to the police, which may then use it in its regular criminal investigations. In other words, the COVID tracking system is thereby converted, through the back door, into a general system for tracking citizens.