A Simple COVID-19 Dashboard for Virginia; The Ethicality of South Korea's Contact Tracing in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Chang, Michael, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
McBurney, Paul, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has made it possible to provide governments, health authorities, and the general public with crucial statistics on the spread of the virus. The technical research project included designing and building an intuitive, user-friendly COVID-19 dashboard for Virginia, focusing heavily on the core components of usability. This was because many popular dashboards have become increasingly complex, are not suited for ordinary users, and lack county-level data. The tightly coupled STS research paper is a case study on contact tracing in South Korea, and investigates how it was implemented, considers the controversies that have arisen, and evaluates the ethicality of this technology. To guard against the ethical controversies that arose from this technology in South Korea, analysis of the current situation employed the Social Construction of Technology model and proposes that an ethical oversight boundary object be established around contact tracing. The technical and STS research projects are tightly coupled, as both will be looking into novel digital health solutions that have faced backlash during this pandemic.
COVID-19 dashboards have been crucial in this pandemic because of their ability to take a massive amount of data and display it in ways that ordinary users can understand. This empowers both figures of authority and ordinary citizens to make more informed decisions during the pandemic. However, dashboards have not been as user-friendly as anticipated, with many dashboards becoming too complex and less suited for the general public. Additionally, while many dashboards show data on the global, national, and state level, there are few that display county-level data in a user-friendly way. The objective of this technical project was to create a user-friendly COVID-19 dashboard for Virginia that would solve the issues of information overload, usability, and lack of county data.
The dashboard features a single-page design with modularized components, allowing different graphs to be inserted or swapped out if needed. Given the smaller scope of data, the dashboard was also able to achieve a fast load time, as the data this dashboard needed to parse through is on a much smaller scale compared to many popular dashboards. The dashboard also provides rich information on both the county and state level, including data on cases, deaths, hospital capacity, and vaccinations. This dashboard will help to empower citizens of Virginia, giving them data that is relevant to their locality. This project could serve as a good example of a dashboard that is targeted towards citizens of a specific state.
Contact tracing has been one of the most effective methods in this pandemic to control the spread of COVID-19. However, the implementation of this technology in South Korea allowed the South Korean government to collect vast amounts of data on their citizens. Additionally, the government’s publishing of an infected person’s route led to a host of privacy controversies. The STS research investigates the controversies that have arisen, evaluates the ethicality of South Korea’s contact tracing, and suggests improvements for the future. To evaluate the ethicality of South Korea’s contact tracing, sources used include South Korean government websites and reports, the European Court of Human Rights, and scholarly articles that analyzed the benefits and harms of contact tracing in South Korea. The principles from the European Court of Human Rights provided an ethical framework that could be used to evaluate South Korea’s contact tracing.
South Korea’s contact tracing method was found to not be ethically justifiable when held against the principles of the European Court of Human Rights. The first reason is that consent of the patients was not upheld, given that authorities had the power to collect, use, and disclose data on citizens as long as they were regarded as patients. User anonymity was also threatened by the privacy controversies that occurred, such as the public engaging in profiling using the anonymous paths of infected individuals, the Shincheonji Church super spreader event, and the Itaewon District outbreak. Citizens also had no control over their data, as there was no way for them to delete their data or opt-out of contact tracing. Finally, there was a lack of a clear decommissioning process of the contact tracing method.
Technology has played a major part in the COVID-19 pandemic, with dashboards empowering people with data and contact tracing helping governments to cut the spread of COVID-19 quickly. However, with this modern technology have come modern problems that must be considered, as dashboards must consider a new target audience of ordinary citizens and contact tracing must face the privacy issues that have come about because of it.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
COVID-19 Dashboard, Social Construction of Technology, Usability, Contact Tracing, South Korea

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Paul McBurney
STS Advisor: Catherine D. Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Sung Joon Park

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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