Governing a Pandemic with Data on the Contactless Path to AI: Personal Data, Public Health, and the Digital Divide in South Korea, Europe and the United States in Tracking of COVID-19


Abstract


Is conditional and temporary collection of data necessary in a public health crisis for democracies? This article attempts at examining the institutional variance in digital tool deployment to contact trace COVID-19 across six different democratic systems: South Korea, Europe (Germany, France, Italy and the UK post-Brexit) and the U.S. It aims at projecting varied country strategies in embracing the digital economy of the future driven by artificial intelligence (AI) as the contactless economy becomes the norm. Europe and the U.S. have refrained from a centralized contact tracing method that involve GPS data collection and used a minimalist approach utilizing apps based on Google and Apple's Application Programming Interface (API) enabled by Bluetooth technology downloadable only voluntary by citizens, with western European countries striving to abide by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), in turn failing to flatten the curve earlier on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, South Korea's maximalist approach of digital tracing utilizing big data analysis on the centralized COVID-19 Smart Management System (SMS) platform and apps on self-diagnosis and self-quarantine under the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act (IDCPA) – revised in the aftermath of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015 – led the country to flatten the curve at an early stage. In addressing the gaps among varied approaches, this article analyzes the legal foundations and policy rationale for conditional and temporary data collection and processing across jurisdictions.

Keywords: South Korea; Europe; United States; COVID-19; Technology; Contact Tracing; Contactless Economy; Personal Data; Civil Liberties; Public Health; Digital Divide; Artificial Intelligence; General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act (IDCPA)

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