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There’s a challenge to balance public safety with privacy. Too much concern over public safety, and you end up in authoritarianism and the potential to abuse, too much privacy and you risk public health, especially in a crisis.

Open, but not opt-in tracking, is one potential solution to offer benefits while limiting the risk of abuse. A few things that this entails:

  • Limiting to the collection of data to what’s actually needed.
  • Using the minimum resolution of the data needed to create a viable application, e.g. do you need to know location within 3 m or is 300 m enough?
  • Anonymizing the data — removing any identifiers on the source.
  • Obfuscating the data. Can the data be combined with other sources to unmask the source? Not good. Maybe eliminate data that can be cross referenced with other open sources of data. This might also need to be tested as new techniques become available to unmask sources.
  • Being transparent about what you know, e.g. this this what we know about you, this is what we collected, this is what we’re showing to others.
  • Tracking access to data. Who’s accessed the data, when, and how? This is another check on potential abuse.

We can figure out how to do this in a way that keeps us safe and still allows us to benefit from data sources that can enrich our lives and benefit us.

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