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Ethics of digital contact tracing apps for the Covid-19 pandemic response

Authors Robert Ranisch
Niels Nijsingh
Angela Ballantyne
Alena Buyx
Orsolya Friedrich
Tereza Hendl
Samia Hurst
Georg Marckmann
Christian Munthe
Verina Wild
Publisher Kompetenznetz Public Health zu COVID-19
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Language en
Links https://www.public-health-covid19.d...
Keywords Covid19, pandemics, public health ethics, ethics, mHealth, eHealth, mobile technology, digitalization, bioethics
Subject categories Infectious Medicine, Medical Ethics, Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy, Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Other Medical Engineering, Communication Systems, Telecommunications, Computer Systems, Ethics, Practical philosophy


There is a growing interest in contact tracing apps (CT apps) for pandemic man- agement. These apps raise significant moral concerns. It is therefore crucial to consider ethical requirements before and while implementing such apps. Public trust is of major importance for population uptake of contact tracing apps. Hasty, ill-prepared or badly communicated implementations of CT apps will likely under- mine public trust, and as such, risk impeding general effectiveness. In response to these demands, to meet ethical requirements and find a basis for justified trust, this background introduces an ethical framework for a responsible design and implementation of CT apps. However, even prudently chosen measures of digital contact tracing carry moral costs, which makes it necessary address different trade-offs. This background paper aims to inform developers, researchers and decision-makers be- fore and throughout the process of implementing contact tracing apps.

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