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Durham University

Research & business

Our research response to the Covid-19 pandemic


We conduct boundary-breaking research that improves lives across the world. Here’s how we’re applying that research to help people combat the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and help chart the route to recovery.


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Covid-19 technologies must be regulated

(2 November 2020)

Technologies such as track and trace apps, used to halt the spread of Covid-19, have to be thoroughly examined and regulated before they are rolled out for wider adoption to ensure they do not normalise a big-brother-like society post-Covid-19, according to Dr Jeremy Aroles.

The research by Dr Aroles, alongside Professor Aurélie Leclercq-Vandelannoitte at IÉSEG School of Management, draws from the concept of ‘societies of control’, developed by the French philosopher Giles Deleuze, in order to analyse the technologies currently being used to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Awareness

Whilst the study acknowledges the public health benefits of these technologies, the researchers state we must be wary of what technology is rolled out by governments and critically cross-examine these.

Dr Aroles said:

“Presented as ways to curb the immediate progression of the pandemic and improve safety, the acceptance and use of these technologies has become the new ‘normal’ for many of us, therefore it is important that these systems of control are heavily vetted and cross-examined before being rolled out to the wider public.”

Three solutions

The researchers suggest three solutions regarding the development and use of Covid-19-related technologies:

  1. The public should question the locus of collective responsibility. Increasingly complex systems of control and surveillance have been fuelled by our reliance on technology which, Dr Aroles and Professor Leclercq-Vandelannoitte say has blurred our understanding of the boundary between ‘good and bad’ or ‘right and wrong’.

  2. More must be done to raise people’s awareness of how digital technologies work, and the risks of adopting them across society. People are often, rightly, concerned over their privacy and the sharing of their data. It is therefore crucial that these technologies are transparent and actively help individuals fully understand the ramifications of the control systems they’re opting in to.

  3. Given that Covid-19 tracking technologies are developed by companies for the benefit of governments, it is vital that greater regulation of the partnerships between state authorities and companies is adopted. Alongside this, it is also important that counter-powers such as journalists and the public hold these partnerships to account, to ensure they do not violate the privacy of citizens for financial gain.

The researchers state that it is important the Covid-19 pandemic is not utilised as an opportunity to enforce a society of control and to normalise greater surveillance. They suggest that researchers or bodies specialising in the management of information systems should be brought in to supervise the developments of digitally enabled control systems, such as Covid-19 apps, and not to abandon them to companies that could violate the privacy of citizens.

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