New ACLU Paper Warns Against Reliance on Remote Temperature Screening to Stem COVID-19 Spread

May 19, 2020 12:15 pm

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NEW YORK — Remote temperature screening for COVID-19 does not work well and raises significant privacy concerns, the American Civil Liberties Union warned in a paper released today. Even if skeptical public health experts conclude that such screenings might be worthwhile in some situations, the ACLU notes that measures must be taken to ensure voluntariness and fairness, and that the use of remote temperature screenings must end with the outbreak.

“Temperature checks should not be deployed unless public health experts say conclusively that they will help,” said ACLU Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley. “We don’t want to see a world where inaccurate tests disrupt people’s lives and invade their privacy, give a false sense of security, or waste time and other resources that could be better used in fighting the pandemic.”

The ACLU yesterday published a paper identifying principles that should inform state and local policies and procedures governing the use of Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing technologies for COVID-19. The piece joins earlier papers on the significant practical limits of some tech-assisted contact tracing proposals and on the technology principles against which developers, policymakers, and the public can judge such proposals.

The ACLU also yesterday warned that so-called “immunity passport” proposals could harm public health, exacerbate racial and economic disparities, and lead to a new health surveillance infrastructure that endangers privacy rights.

“There have been disease outbreaks throughout human history, but never one that has taken place in the era of high-tech tracking tools and ‘big data’,” said Stanley in a blog post published today. “We need to continue to think creatively about how new technology can help us fight this disease and get back to normal, but we also need to remain skeptical before we compromise our civil liberties, realizing that there will be a lot of ideas that just don’t work out.”

Today’s white paper on temperature checks is here:

Yesterday’s white paper on contact tracing technologies is here:

An ACLU blog post on immunity passports is here:

An ACLU blog post reviewing various technology proposals in response to pandemic is here:

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