This report is also available in Spanish.

The urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic has led States around the world to the rushed deployment and application of technology to monitor and deter the spread of the disease. Even in such public health crises, it is critical that Governments prioritize their international human rights commitments, ensuring that they take necessary and proportionate steps to address legitimate public health concerns.

In “Technologies Used in the Fight Against the Pandemic: Personal Data in Latin America” Laura Nathalie Hernández Rivera, PhD in Law, who specializes in public policy and technology at the civil society organization Derechos Digitales, examined what this means for Latin America.

The author conducted research on the development of technologies to fight the pandemic in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and El Salvador, and analyzed the impacts of governments’ responses on users’ privacy rights. This work was informed by a comparison of existing legal frameworks for data protection and considered data-sharing arrangements with private companies as applicable. Several official sources were consulted, including press reports, interviews with representatives of digital human rights protection organizations, and scholarly articles on this topic.

The study shows that while there has been a significant boost in the deployment of technologies and mechanisms to collect and process information for public health purposes, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the design, development, and implementation of these technologies strictly comply with human rights standards and are consistent with the protection of privacy and informational self-determination.

The report concludes that “it is necessary that all measures taken to fight the pandemic and any future emergencies be adequate, necessary, and proportionate, with a clear and consensual purpose, for a limited period of time” and offers recommendations regarding the implementation of viable solutions, keeping in mind best practices, legality, and the observance of human rights.

Read the report. Learn more about GNI’s work on surveillance.

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of GNI.