Photo of a crowded city street superimposed with connecting facial recognition circles


Newsbyte: AI and COVID-19

June 12, 2020

College of Arts and Sciences’ Kevin LaGrandeur, Ph.D., gave a lightning round discussion on the promise and peril of using AI to fight COVID-19. The discussion was part of an international “Zoom-posium” on the philosophical and political implications of COVID in today’s posthuman age, organized by NY Posthuman Research Group founder Francesca Ferrando, Ph.D.

“There’s been a flood of tech innovations lately to fight the COVID virus. Some are AI-based, and some of those are really good, however a number of them are ethically problematic,” says LaGrandeur, who is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, as well as conference papers and presentations related to artificial intelligence.

As he notes, there are “good” AI-based diagnostic applications, like Alexa’s Daily Check, which includes a questionnaire for seniors to see if they have COVID-19, and alerts a designated caregiver so that privacy is protected and testing is ubiquitous. However, he also suggests that problematic innovations may arise with AI-based applications used for tracking and isolating people with the virus, including the vulnerability of health data stored in wearable devices, data being shared with third-parties, and authoritarian data usage, among others.

To curtail these issues, LaGrandeur recommends that leaders implement public policies that mandate tracking applications to adhere to the following principals:

  • Apps should anonymize data or ensure that the highest level of privacy is used.
  • Data collected should be used only for COVID-19 tracking.
  • Tracking participation should be voluntary, not mandatory, for users .
  • Data should be transparent and open access for all countries.
  • Time limits should ensure that the app automatically stops working at the given time that the disease ends.

View the full discussion on YouTube.