Privacy purists cannot be allowed to block the end of lockdown

Innovations in technology continue to offer hope in the fight against the spread of coronavirus. From thermal sensors which detect symptoms to track and trace apps, it seems inevitable, says Alicia Asin, co-founder and CEO of Libelium, that new technology holds at least part of the key to enabling us to return to some sense of normality.

However, with these innovations comes a new chapter in an age-old debate around the integration of technology into our society: How much privacy are we willing to surrender in order for technology to help us feel safer?

Healthcare innovation

You will have seen on the news the huge scale of innovation taking place to combat the coronavirus: Applications for tracking contacts, geolocating infected people, temperature measuring equipment for public buildings and hospitals, the list goes on and on. Technology is opening up the possibility of a safe return to a cautious normality post-lockdown, but in doing so many have become concerned about the extent to which it could compromise our personal privacy.

For me, there is more than a hint of irony in this position. When half of the world was locked down and global healthcare systems were on the brink of disaster, no measure which protected human life was considered out of bounds. Preventing us from leaving our homes, keeping families apart, closing borders; Any measure necessary was acceptable in the protection of those most vulnerable to the disease.

Privacy vs. healthcare

However, now that our doors have reopened and we begin to emerge into our workplaces, some seem to have forgotten those pledges from a few weeks back. As if the past two months simply hadn’t happened, we are once again back to square one. For many sceptical voices, protecting our vulnerable from the virus should not take precedence over total data privacy.

These “privacy purists” believe that a barrier approach will be sufficient to protect the population from this dangerous virus as we leave lockdown. Workplaces that are beginning to reopen should, in their minds, erect screens, enforce mass mask wearing and ensure socially distanced desks.

However, these prevention methods will not be enough to contain a virus with such a high rate of infection. In the absence of a failsafe method of infection detection systems inside every workplace, barrier methods and social distancing alone are doomed to fail. Only in combination with trace and track technology and dynamic temperature monitoring systems can we ever hope to ensure even partial safety for the public post-lockdown.

Should privacy trump safety?

Alicia Asin

We are moving into the next phase of our battle with coronavirus. Lockdown has brought us valuable time to develop our healthcare capacity, focus on the foundations of a vaccine and develop systems capable of protecting us from the virus outside our homes. Unfortunately, there will always be those who, in the name of privacy concerns, wish to limit the effectiveness of those systems. Of course, they have a right to believe that their privacy should trump our safety. However, they should not be allowed to block those of us who wish to utilise new technology and step out of lockdown into the new normal.

The author is Alicia Asin, co-founder and CEO of Libelium.

About the author

The author is Alicia Asin, the CEO and co-founder of Libelium. She received the European Women Innovator Award in 2019, and is on the Jury for the Princess of Asturias Innovation Awards.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow


9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, iot home automation is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more

Bluetooth Range and Reliability: Myth vs Fact

Posted on: September 21, 2021

As Bluetooth is becoming more and more ubiquitous in smart homes, buildings, and factories, there are many myths about what the wireless technology can and cannot do. In fact, its capabilities go far beyond its use in consumer electronics and enables a wide range of professional solutions in commercial and industrial environments. Here are some of the common myths around Bluetooth – and the lesser-known facts

Read more

OQ Technology reveals patent portfolio in the US and Europe to improve satellite communications

Posted on: September 21, 2021

5G satellite operator OQ Technology has revealed six pending patent applications in the USA and in Europe that will improve satellite-based IoT and M2M communications in remote locations. OQ Technology’s patent applications include a “wake-up” technology for satellite IoT (Internet of things) devices, IoT device localisation, frequency and timing synchronisation, inter-satellite link technology and satellite

Read more