IGF 2020 WS #321 Coronovirus and Privacy


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 1: Kuo Wu, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Todd Laurence, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Catherine Tai, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Break-out Group Discussions - Round Tables - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

-How can we make sure that there is sufficient debate and discussion before the state forcing the technology adoption? -How private companies push back on data-sharing requirement imposed by the governments? Should they push back? Can they push back?

Clearly, data-collection technology is an indispensable and valuable tool in containing the pandemic, but it raises important questions about data sovereignty and privacy. These issues are less contentious in East Asian society, even in democracies, than in Western societies, in which infringements upon personal data are the subject of intense ongoing public debate. The prerequisites for effective contact-tracing technology are government-enabled digital infrastructure and data sharing between the public and private sectors, possibly at the expense of robust private protections. Mandatory compliance with data-collection technology is a common practice, as in the cases of Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. These governments asked their citizens to install applications that can track human movements and help enforce mandatory quarantine. In addition to the government tracing tools, private developers in South Korea introduced apps to map out clusters and regions with COVID-19 patients. These initiatives by governments and private companies faced little resistance and received warm welcomes from the general public. In Western societies, concerns about privacy and civil liberties usually are more prominent and publicly debated. But the debate on this issue is almost absent in public discourse in all the countries mentioned, irrespective of their form of government. China’s response to COVID-19 has been widely praised among developing countries for its strict lock down regulations and successful deployment of its surveillance system. It is no secret that tech giants in China such as Alibaba and Tencent possess large amount of user data collected from their ‘super-apps,’ and there has been widespread debate among western observers over the issue of sharing such data with the government. By harvesting colossal amounts of user data in real-time, these firms can use algorithms to predict population movements, even ahead of the state surveillance apparatus. The close relationship between the Chinese government and the tech giants is concerning. It is difficult for the average citizen to forgo using these super apps, because they are used for everything from ride hailing to payments to street vendors. These applications are integrated with other apps, exposing even more personal data to collection. This raises obvious privacy concerns that must be addressed.


GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-Being
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals


This panel discussion will provide a platform for experience-sharing and collaboration facilitation among multiple-stakeholders on data governance and privacy issues related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. East Asian governments have been early adopters of contact-tracing technology as part of their public health response to the crisis. A number of these countries appear to have succeeded in “flattening the curve,” reducing the rate of new infections among their populations to a level which the healthcare system can sustain. Among the countries reporting success are China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. Although they are all located in East Asia, the countries on the short list of success stories are not homogenous. Most notably, some are democracies, others are not. In some, compliance with state public health measures was voluntary, in others, mandatory. Valuable lessons may be learned from the policies adopted by each of these governments in response to the crisis. At the workshop, panelists will share their respective views and experiences in data-driven approaches to managing the pandemic, their concerns on data governance and privacy violations, and the relationships between the public and private sectors working together to tackle the challenges brought by the pandemic.

Expected Outcomes

The topics discussed in the session will kickstart a series of public discussions in East and Southeast Asia between the public and private sectors. In addition, there will be articles which summarize the discussion to distribute widely for public consumption.

The panelists and moderators will all help facilitate the discussion between the speakers and the audience. While the speakers will begin the session by providing key perspectives, background, and insights into the discussion topics, the core of the discussion will center on the audience and online participants’ thoughts and answers to the key questions. The session will use a variety of online tools, including Poll Everywhere software, social media platforms such as Twitter, and webcast discussion features to ensure the widest participation. The panelists and moderators will also float between the small groups, and chime in as appropriate to spur discussions and answer questions. This will include circulating guided discussion questions and prompts. The moderators will also take care to keep the small groups as diverse as possible, by encouraging the participants in the room to mix with others they do not know, and especially ensuring that a variety of different stakeholders (civil society, private sector, government, and intergovernmental participants) are represented within each breakout group.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Digitalization of everything has brought convenience and transformed our lives tremendously. While enjoying the benefits of a digitalized world, privacy, rights, and civic liberty cannot be ignored or disregarded. Data protection should be taken into consideration when the economy and transactions are more and more digitalized.

Relevance to Theme: Privacy: Tech companies, governments, and international agencies are all depending on technologies to contain the spread of the COVID-19. It is critical that we protect people’s privacy by following a few principles such as to obtain consent by being transparency to collect data, what data is collected, and how long it is kept. Data Protection: The data collected for specific purpose such as the data on persons infected with COVID-19 and other public health reasons should remain under that person’s control. The data should be used only for public health purposes and be used to fight the pandemic for a set period of time. Surveillance Economy: Tech giants are collecting data for all the services they provide. The harvest data and turn the data into profit. In some instances, they are even more powerful than the governments because their reach is borderless. The private sector should be given space for innovation to happen while they also need to take responsibility and be part of the discussion on internet governance.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Including the use of Twitter to promote the panel discussion, the session coordinators will have the ability to live stream this event to the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) and filter up questions from the network to the online moderator in order to increase diverse and pluralistic dialogue. (ANDE) is a global membership network of over 280 organizations from more than 150 countries that propel entrepreneurship in emerging markets. ANDE members provide critical financial, educational, and business support services to small and growing businesses (SGBs) based on the conviction that SGBs will create jobs, stimulate long-term economic growth, and produce environmental and social benefits. In addition to engaging the global ANDE network, our online moderator, Morgan Frost, will filter questions from all online participants up to the panel in real time in order to develop a robust multi-stakeholder and global discussion. Online participants will also have the ability to engage in virtual small group discussions through the online moderator and a polling platform that will be displayed during the session.