Electronic Fence 2.0: Balancing Personal Privacy, Human Rights, and Outbreak Prevention

Author: 一葉一菩提

Editor: zhong

Translators: Cute panda, 追尋自由, 歡喜的土豆 and 謎擬Q

The tragic experience of the SARS epidemic in 2003 has led Taiwan to place more emphasis on public health care, hospital infection control, and the implementation of health personnel training, infectious disease prevention and other regulations. of control, as well as the importance of human rights, personal data and the finalization of supporting laws for the electronic fence 2.0, combined with the advanced deployment of technology. Using the lessons of the past to understand the future, hope that we can learn from the past and bring a warm ray of hope to the world.

  1. Reflections on the closure of Hospital Heping due to SARS

On April 24, 2003, the SARS outbreak in Taiwan progressed with unprecedented speed, overwhelming many hospitals and public health systems within two weeks, 57 health personnel and 97 patients were infected; claiming the death of 7 health assistants and 24 patients, the epidemic had spread throughout Taiwan.

To prevent the infection from spreading to hospitals, at that time Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou ordered the closure of Heping Hospital, forcing more than 1,000 people into isolation. People often jumped out of windows to escape, health workers protested loudly outside the blocked line, or posted help signs on windows in hopes that their voices could be heard.

Finally, this epidemic storm, thanks to the efforts of the government and all the people, with God’s blessing, came to an end.

Following this, the government took into account the fact that Taiwan’s health and medical system had long emphasized medical care over public health, as well as hospital infection control and training of hospital workers. health had not been fully implemented, in addition to the fact that the laws and regulations for the prevention and control of infectious diseases had not been reviewed and implemented in a timely manner. The lack of emergency response plans and the lack of public health and epidemic prevention concepts on the part of the people. Most seriously, horizontal and vertical communications between central and local authorities were not as fluid as they could have been at the time, making it impossible to coordinate and work together to combat SARS.

Currently, the health care and public health system has been rebuilt, not only has the “Law for the prevention and control of infectious diseases” been substantially modified, but also organizational reengineering and improving the efficiency of the health administration, strengthening the capacity for community mobilization and independent management of public health, in turn, international cooperation in health has been increased, modernized research and development of medical technology.

In addition, the society that was isolated by the disease and was left with the consequences and psychological traumas of social exclusion.

The former director of Heping Hospital, Zhou Jingkai, at that time who was denied access to the hospital due to insufficient medical equipment, was later stigmatized, heavily fined and finally fired, all this lack was also reviewed and improved by the government.

2. How to weigh human rights and information privacy in times of emergency

In response to the dispute over human rights, Interpretation No. 603 of the Taiwan Judicial Framework: Maintaining human dignity and respecting the free development of personality are the core values of a free democratic constitutional order.

Privacy is an indispensable basic right.

However, the constitutional protection of the right to information privacy is not absolute. The State may, within the scope of the intention of article 23 of the constitution, impose the appropriate restrictions with the explicit provisions of the law.

In addition, the Chief Justice also stated that the national epidemic prevention authority has adopted the necessary measures of “careful deprivation of personal liberty” for the prevention of epidemics in accordance with the provisions of the Communicable Diseases Control Act.

The Communicable Disease Control Act stipulates the following: “Persons who have been in contact with infectious disease patients or are suspected of being infected may be detained by the competent authority for inspection; if necessary, they may be ordered to move into designated places for inspection or vaccinations, etc..”

The Communicable Disease Control Law also expressly stipulates that measures such as “mandatory isolation, inspection and vaccination” for the prevention of epidemics sacrifice the right of people to decide whether they should be quarantined, inspected or vaccinated, but considering that the spread of the epidemic will do so, the urgent danger that threatens the society of Taiwan, and the irrecoverable damage that the epidemic could cause.

In order to protect society from the devastating epidemic, taking extreme measures such as mandatory isolation, screening, and vaccination when deemed necessary would not violate the constitutional protection of the basic rights of the people.

Acting quickly is valuable, but it will continue to spark other human rights disputes. Especially now that science and technology are advanced, the adoption of scientific and technological methods to achieve the purpose of epidemic prevention is the main epidemic prevention method of all countries. People are often unable to detect and understand the government’s use of information necessary for epidemic prevention through scientific and technological means. Therefore, through technology the government greatly reduces the time it takes to obtain information, but as a result of this, disputes such as infringement of privacy have emerged.

 As a result, in the decision-making process of epidemic prevention measures this time, Taiwan has considered human rights protection to the greatest extent, hoping to strike an appropriate balance between “epidemic prevention and human rights protection.”

During Taiwan’s epidemic prevention, the National Health Insurance Agency has listed information security protection as a major focus.

In the past, in order to ensure that the people’s footprints have been recorded, the “real name system” is usually adopted, requiring people to provide personal information such as their names or ID numbers when they go to public places to obtain relevant information when needed.

However, this time Taiwan has changed to adopting the “real-link system.”

The so-called real link system refers to the fact that people who go to a public place have to comply with the request of the epidemic prevention agency to leave information for when necessary. But the difference is that this time people have the right to decide what information to leave. The information is limited to “available for the competent authority to communicate with the parties”.

Taiwan’s epidemic prevention policy adopts a “real-link system”, which is absolutely based on the fundamental rights of the constitution to protect the rights of people from arbitrary violations by the state, and people have the right to choose what personal information they can leave, that will be used for their contact.

Furthermore, in accordance with the requirements of the “Guidelines for real-link system”, special personnel are assigned to handle and fulfill the responsibility of data protection. All personal data shall be subject to the principle of least infringement, focusing on the collection of information that can be contacted immediately during the epidemic investigation. The collected data shall be mainly used in response to the needs of the epidemic and is provided to relevant departments. Finally, the collected personal information also refers to relevant professional opinions. The maximum incubation period is 14 days and the time for data storage extends double. It can only be stored for a maximum of 28 days, after which it must be deleted or destroyed.

3. The electronic fence 2.0 operates and collects pandemic prevention data , at the same time , the system takes into account the protection of personal information.

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC)stated that due to the recent development of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to reduce the risk of community transmission, starting from December 31 (2020),  the regulation for self- management of health of Covid-19 will be reinforced. Meanwhile,  the electronic fence will be implemented to prevent people who are in the state of self-quarantine of health . The system will prevent them from visiting highly populated area.( hereinafter referred to as the electronic fence 2.0).

I. The way that the electronic fence 2.0 operates is through an application of  anti-pandemic information technology that uses location-aware sensor. This technology uses the interconnection of Cell sites and mobile phones in various places to record the personal movement process like a dashcam. With this information, the command center can better understand human interaction and contact history during the pandemic prevention period.

II.The function of the electronic fence 2.0 is to control the infection risk area, to detect human traffic trends , or to monitor and to trace the footprint of the confirmed cases or person in the state of self- quarantine.

  • a) People can avoid highly-risk areas. Moreover,  pandemic prevention personnel can sanitize  as soon as possible or take preventive quarantine measures for potentially infected persons to  stop the spread of the pandemic.
  • b) The electric fence 2.0 system compares and sends reminder messages to specific targets. The message will emphasize the importance of  independent health management. This result in  the proportion of home quarantine persons (non-compliance with pandemic prevention regulations) is greatly reduced from 30% to 0.3%, which indicates the effectiveness of pandemic prevention measures.
  • c) In highly dense areas, the electronic fence 2.0 system notifies the local authority and the public to implement diversion control and remind them to avoid visiting those places.

In conclusion,  the Taiwan Epidemic Command Center uses technology to prevent the epidemic in accordance with regulations such as the Infectious Disease Control Act and Personal Data Protection Act. However, when adopting technology as an efficient tool for epidemic prevention measures, it is inevitable that there will be issues involving personal rights such as privacy. In order to fully protect the personal assets of the people and reduce interference with personal freedom, the command center shall follow three  principles : the principle of least intervention, the principle to fit the purpose of people, the principle of balance. Under those principles, the command center will plan and execute a series of epidemic prevention measures. The ultimate goal is to minimize the impact on people’s lives, and to achieve the best balance between the interests of personal privacy and epidemic prevention regulations.

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