On 26 and 31 March, the Global Network Initiative (GNI) hosted two learning calls on the implications of the novel coronavirus, or COVID19, on freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. Open to GNI members, the calls discussed the opportunities and risks of using ICT company data to respond to the pandemic, as well as the impact of different government measures on the flow of important health information.

As COVID19 spreads around the world, governments are taking measures to use ICT company data to aid public health efforts to stem the outbreak. Company data, whether anonymized or presented in aggregate, or at the granular level of location data about the movement of individuals, may be useful to public health authorities. Through these calls, GNI members sought to understand the utility of different forms of data for combatting disease and their potential impacts on the privacy and free expression rights of ICT users.

More than 100 people joined the calls, representing 54 GNI participants located in 26 countries around the world. The conversations were structured around the following areas:

  • Opportunities and risks of using ICT data to respond to COVID19
    • Using aggregated and anonymized data for virus tracking
    • Using individual location data for contact tracing, including data volunteered with user consent or compelled by a government entity
  • Government responses from around the world
  • Updates on data-sharing initiatives
  • Impacts of network disruptions on health information
  • Threats to press freedom
  • Future areas for GNI collaboration