Group: Pandemic tech tools raise risk of everyday tracking

By KELVIN CHAN

LONDON (AP) — Tech tools like digital contact tracing apps and artificial intelligence that European governments rolled out to combat COVID-19 failed to play a key role in solving the pandemic and now threaten to make such monitoring widely accepted, a new report shows.

The health surveillance technologies that many European countries deployed after the coronavirus pandemic erupted last year were often adopted without enough transparency, safeguards or democratic debate, according to a report released Thursday by AlgorithmWatch, a nonprofit research group that tracks the impact of AI systems.

Authorities scrambled to develop new technologies or use existing ones to combat the virus’s spread. They built digital contact tracing apps to track who infected people had been around and later developed vaccine passports to verify people had received COVID-19 shots in order to travel or get into concerts, restaurants and other businesses. Some used drones and devices to enforce social distancing rules.

Many of these systems used “automated decision-making” technology, which reduced the complex social challenges posed by COVID-19 to a set of technology issues in need of tech solutions, the Berlin-based nonprofit said.

A view of an iphone showing the new NHS COVID-19 mobile phone application after the app went live on Thursday morning in London, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. A new report group says digital contact tracing apps, artificial intelligence and other tech tools that European governments rolled out to combat COVID-19 failed to play a key role in solving the pandemic and now threaten to make such monitoring widely accepted. The nonprofit research group AlgorithmWatch said Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 that the health surveillance technologies many countries deployed were often adopted without enough transparency, safeguards or democratic debate. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

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