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Contxto – Startup In Loco is giving the government of Brazil a hand in tracking general levels of isolation due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. By gathering geolocation data from users’ cell phones, the startup is able to map out where people are found.
According to the recent data gathered by the startup, around 58.9 percent of the population was socially isolated last Thursday (2).
Certainly useful, but it also poses some ethical questions in terms of an individual’s privacy versus the collective needs of isolation.
In Loco, IoT, and coronavirus
Brazilian startup In Loco specializes in Internet of Things (IoT) technology and can track an individual thanks to a mix of GPS, Wi-Fi signals, and Bluetooth.
Correspondingly, it partnered with local authorities in Recife to draw up a daily heatmap of people moving throughout the city.
The pair have assured that users’ privacy will be respected as the collected data does not personally identify anyone. Meaning, through a Brazilian’s cell phone, the government will know in broad terms if there’s a group of people in the downtown area, albeit it won’t know what their names are, phone numbers, etc.
As an additional measure, all data is encrypted.
No doubt this kind of technology is useful to control the spread of the disease by identifying more problematic areas. However, users in Brazil are concerned with its impact on their privacy.
Some may be uncomfortable about being tracked even if they cannot be personally identified through it.
Moreover, even if their approval is required, virtually nobody reads privacy policies, they blindly click “I accept” and hand over their data, only to be shocked with how it’s used later.
Then there are businesses, which often make the process of consent withdrawal a complicated one so as to deter users from doing so. In addition to privacy concerns, users are worried about data leaks despite assurances that their information would be kept private.
On that note, Brazil has an upcoming data protection law (LGPD for its Portuguese acronym) set to enter into effect next August.
This piece of legislation pushes for more accountability from private and public entities that process personal data. However, a couple of months ago Brazilian regulators have called for a postponement of its effective date. This was so because they considered that many businesses wouldn’t be ready on time.
Now given the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s only adding more reason to postpone this key piece of legislation.
Anywho, what do you think is more important?:
Your privacy as an individual? Or the overall well being of a large mass of people?
At any rate, if you’re the sort who values their privacy a new browser, Brave, was released last fall. Through it ads, tags, and all that tracking gunk is blocked. I’ve surfed the internet on it out and it’s quite impressive!
Related articles: Tech and startups from Brazil!