VB Special Issue: AI and surveillance in the age of coronavirus

With unprecedented and historic impact, the pandemic has changed everything. It forced the entire world to slow to a near halt as health professionals and world leaders scrambled to contain and track the spread of the coronavirus, while citizens fled into their homes to shelter in place and quarantine. Technology has played a central role in much of it, and as we all look to flatten the curve while we reboot society, get back to work, and create treatments for COVID-19, it will continue to do so.

In this issue, we focus on one of the most immediate needs: finding the balance between safety and freedom. 

We ponder this tension through the lens of the technologies that are involved in contact tracing and quarantine tracking and enforcement. We discuss the methods and technologies involved, like smartphone surveillance, thermal scanning, drones, big data, and facial recognition, and how and where they’re being used around the world. And we unpack the battle in Congress over data privacy laws and how to avoid the rise of permanent new surveillance measures. We dig deep into the situation unfolding in France, where all these issues are coalescing. 

Finding the balance between safety and freedom in the shadow of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the landscape of AI, big data, surveillance, and politics. What happens now will resonate for years to come.

How Congress is shaping data privacy laws during the pandemic

Privacy advocates and Congress want to balance big data, AI, surveillance, and consumer data rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The technologies the world is using to track coronavirus — and people

Governments around the world are finding their own mix of methods to track the coronavirus and surveil people, including smartphone data, apps, drones, thermal scanning, and facial recognition

France offers a case study in the battle between privacy and coronavirus tracing apps

So many of the issues central to the technical and ethical debates surrounding the development of coronavirus tracing apps have landed on France

What privacy-preserving coronavirus tracing apps need to succeed

Coronavirus contact tracing app makers in the U.S. and Europe say they can help return life to normal and keep privacy intact, but they need a lot of help.