Rhema Vaithianathan: “NZ is the Wild West of Contact Tracing”

14 May, 2020

In a recent opinion piece for the NZ Herald Rhema Vaithianathan questioned the requirement for organisations to collect contact tracing data on behalf of the Government and pointed out how this decentralised approach threatens privacy and the trusted use of data.

Drawing on her previous work as part of the Data Futures Working Group, Vaithianathan said New Zealanders want to know two things about the use of these data: how it would benefit them, their community and whanau;, and how the data would be kept secure.

“Neither of these questions have been answered by the Government. We have no information as to how sharing our personal details with all and sundry will improve the efficacy of manual tracing. Exactly how does "outsourcing" the contact tracing to businesses and organisations help us manage the next Covid-19 wave? We are expected to trust this fragmented data collection programme, with no evidence our trust is well placed.

While Government has shown great concern for issues of data privacy and trust (and rejected mandatory participation) in the development of its own app, it has seemingly suspended those concerns when requiring businesses and organisations to act on its behalf in Level 2.

It is not clear whether Government's digital contact tracing solution will arrive in time to replace the fragmented situation that is emerging. But the loss of trust created by a slow and contradictory approach to digital contact tracing will take some time to rectify.”

Read the full opinion piece which appeared in the NZ Herald on 14 May 2020.