Big tech is great until it is not. Apple and Google are on the verge of breaking loose contact tracking as part of their operating systems and via apps. This is wonderful if you don’t mind your privacy being invaded, violated and your safety being put at risk. Frenzy, panic, and overreactions are the norms these days when people feel they are at risk. Just look at the run on toilet paper. Just this week, I was accosted by a man in the grocery store who left his cart sideways in the middle of the aisle and then got upset when my cart bumped his during my attempt to pass by. Just imagine if his phone pinged that I had been infected with COVID-19.
As risk managers, we have to be cognizant of the realities of tracking people. We have laws on the books that are ripe for a violation when we let big tech and the Feds implement this kind of tracking. Some regulations prohibit tracking students with RFID, releasing their records, and their health information. There are laws on the books that prohibit the sharing of medical information with anyone that is not authorized (HIPPA) and also using that information to make hiring and firing decisions (GINA).
Now in the names of COVID-19 and Safety, the Feds and big tech want to use this opportunity to track everyone with a phone wherever they go and not only track them but broadcast their personal health information over the airwaves. The question is where does it stop. What happens when big tech decides that people should know about AIDS patients, cancer patients, persons with STD’s and any other condition they deem at risk.
Lead, Asbestos, OPIM, and COVID
In my professional risk management opinion, we should treat this like lead and asbestos. Assume everyone is hot. That everyone is contaminated. Do that and you won’t let your guard down. You will just follow good hygiene practices when dealing with people. This is something everyone should be doing now and should have been doing in the past. Sorry to say it though, a lot of people aren’t that clean. Even today, I see pictures of people standing on their kitchen counters with their shoes on. Not washing their hands coming out of bathrooms. The list goes on. The safest method is to treat everything as hot and OPIM. Use those universal precautions and you will be fine.
If the tech is unleashed
If the contact tracking technology is unleashed on America, then we as risk managers have some serious work to do. We have to ensure that this data is not used by hiring managers, principals, teachers, and supervisors to punish staff, employees, students, and others. We also must ensure that we don’t create a hostile work environment for our employees. There’s so much downside to this tech and very little upside for the end-user.
Good luck with dealing with this emerging risk!