How will data fare in the global fight against the pandemic?Download a PDF of this article
Data-harnessing companies on both sides of the Atlantic face immense demands and expectations. Public authorities and wider society expect data-harnessing companies to act in fighting against COVID-19, especially through tracing app initiatives. Emerging business partnerships are proactively combining expertise and harnessing data to provide solutions that mitigate or manage the public health crisis, and steer towards socio-economic recovery. Public concerns and regulatory developments on privacy may evolve to account for data’s immediate purpose of safeguarding public health.
Governments are now turning to private companies to seek input and collaboration in leveraging the growing potential and inclusion of data. As all market sectors mobilise resources against the gravest global crisis of our time, dataharnessing companies are equally obligated to be proactive. However, as the pandemic starts to level off from its peak, governments may become dependent and wary in equal measure of the power of data as a commodity and what this means for their approach to data harnessing companies. One outcome could be greater monitoring and scrutiny, and it will be essential for business to maintain and build on existing dialogue with policymakers and regulators.
Recent years have seen data harnessing companies thrown into the spotlight for the perceived risk of compromise that their use of data represents for citizen privacy. Today though, that concern sits in stark opposition to the potential offer of safety and security that data-harnessing companies can make to citizens via tracing apps that track and limit the transmission of COVID-19. Countries face the choice of following or diverging from existing data rules to tackle the pandemic and seek to incorporate new healthrelated functions for gathering and managing data within their national frameworks. Both options have elicited controversy.