Governments around the world, in cooperation with businesses, have started to utilize digital surveillance technologies to collect location information of patients with COVID-19 and those subject to quarantines, and to track and monitor their behaviors. In Japan, the Government has also requested business to provide information that contributes to the countermeasures against coronavirus clusters. The government also announced that it would collaborate with the private sectors to provide an app for smartphones that warns people who may have come into close contact with patients with COVID-19.
In response to these developments, NGOs and media are becoming increasingly concerned about violation of privacy rights because these measures may allow the governments to monitor citizens and that there is a risk of unauthorized use of personal information. Amnesty International and more than 100 NGOs have issued joint statements to clarify eight conditions in using digital surveillance technologies for protecting human rights and preventing excessive monitoring.
Given these concerns, companies are expected to respect privacy rights when collaborating with the government in developing technologies and providing information. Also in this engagement, it is beneficial to conduct Human Rights Due Diligence to assess impacts on human rights, including an indirect impact, caused by business activities. When companies develop and provide digital technologies such as tracking apps, it is important to check and monitor how the technology provided by the companies to the governments will be used. When companies provide government with data of their employees, and customers, it is also important to prudently check out how the data will be used by the governments as well as complying with data protection regulations. Access Now's recommendations summarize check points in the public-private partnership on digital surveillance technologies.
In addition, European Commission has developed principles and has clarified requirements under its toolbox in developing mobile phone tracking applications to be in consistency with data privacy laws. It is also useful for business to analyze the gap between their related digital surveillance technologies and EU’s principles and requirements.
Business and Human Rights Lawyers Network Japan
Emi OMURA, Akiko SATO, and Daisuke TAKAHASHI
C/O Research Center for Sustainable Peace (RCSP),
The University of Tokyo
3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 153-8902, JAPAN