Companies and researchers are increasingly turning to blockchain technology in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But concerns about how this fight affects privacy and civil liberties are rising.
In Spain, researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Research of Salamanca, the University of Salamanca, and the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute are now working to track the “evolution” of the novel coronavirus using a new app built on AI and blockchain.
Juan Manuel Corchado and Javier Prieto lead the team behind the project and explained in an interview with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers that they aim to provide vital information to doctors and other health professionals around the world to help them battle COVID-19. At the same time, the app is designed to help governments enforce social distancing, lockdowns, and other mandates.
The app will create digital identities for individuals. These users can then sign into the app using these identities and garner private keys that act as licenses that permit them to perform “essential tasks,” as defined by a given jurisdiction, while remaining compliant with social distancing regulations.
“By providing people with an app, we are trying to guarantee that they comply with quarantine rules imposed by the government,” Corchado and Prieto told the IEEE. “Each user is associated with a digital identity and can sign in with a private key to access a certificate. These certificates will allow citizens to go grocery shopping or go to work.”
The product is in line with the direction of global organizations such as the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, which have long touted the idea of digital IDs for everyone. The growing pandemic has only boosted this argument, but privacy experts and civil libertarians say that this practice gives rise to several questions, including how governments and other bodies plan to use these IDs and what control they can enforce over…