Covid-19 tracking bracelet: problem or solution?

While this unfortunate pandemic that plagues the world seems far from the end
(if there will ever be an end), means are sought to balance the exercise
of individual freedoms and the maintenance of reasonable levels of contamination, the
in order to avoid overloading health systems.

It is well known that, in addition to physical health, it is important to be concerned about the mental health of individuals. In the eyes of many, isolation challenges the human condition, forged in grouping and collaboration. Another factor that comes into play, of course, is the economy, which is threatened by changes in social dynamics and other consequences imposed
unfortunate health conditions.

Thus, as an alternative to imposing absolute isolation, governments have sought to reconcile the desire of their citizens for minimal circulation with the guarantee of adequate levels of security. This tactic involves the use of controls, such as citizen monitoring devices that can momentarily pose risks to others.

This is the case of Israel, which recently started to distribute electronic bracelets to travelers who return to the country, allowing them to remain at home (under monitoring) instead of spending two weeks in quarantine in hotels. The purpose of the waterproof device is to “tell off”, to authorities, travelers who violate the mandatory period of isolation.

Covid tracking braceletMonitoring kit for covid-19 used in Israel.

The idea seems promising, since, by making it possible for travelers to stay at their homes (and not in government-funded hotels), the strategy in theory honors the comfort and well-being of travelers, as well as reducing the cost of the State and avoiding situations overcrowding in hotels.

The proposal is part of the context of many others (more or less controversial) implemented by several countries since the beginning of the pandemic. Cite the cases of China, which mobilized a sophisticated and massive surveillance system to identify people – in public places – who would not be wearing masks or whose temperature indicated a fever, as well as Russia, which opted for the use of facial recognition technologies and geolocation monitoring of citizens to fight the virus.

In this context, there are quite important issues to be considered, especially in view of the right to privacy and the protection of personal data of the individuals targeted by such measures. In fact, even though the moment undoubtedly suggests exceptional measures, whenever we think about state monitoring of our private activities (even more in a private environment, such as our home), a cold spine appears, mainly because this type of surveillance has historically come associated with regimes of wide restriction of rights and acute state intervention in the sphere of individual autonomy of citizens.

It is even a maneuver to balance dishes. Whenever we have values ​​of equal importance at the table (in this case, freedom, public health and privacy), any choice will invariably mean a loss. Therefore, the solution is to seek the best way to accommodate these values, so that any losses are at least proportional to the gains.

In the case of Israel, the momentary intervention by the State in the privacy of the citizens involved, based on the monitoring of their daily commuting routines during the quarantine period after returning from travel, must take place in the least invasive manner possible and for the shortest period. as long as possible, with the maximum guarantee of security of the collected data, which includes the rigorous selection and supervision of third-party developers of the technology.

In addition, the State must be transparent about the purposes for which the data are used, which should be limited only to the monitoring of the observance of the quarantine period by the monitored individuals.

In addition, there must be strict restriction of access to data, as well as prompt disposal after reaching the purpose, so that the exposure of individuals takes place in the exact measure necessary to make the idealized purpose viable. With the application of the precautions indicated above, we understand that it is possible to equalize the public and private values ​​in question, finding valid justifications for exceptional measures, which cannot be applied indiscriminately.


Paulo Vidigal, columnist at TecMundo, is a partner at the Prado Vidigal firm, specializing in Digital Law, Privacy and Data Protection; certified by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and member of the Digital Law Commission of OAB / SP.

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