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Lecture Series in AI Ethics & Ethical AI: Is Automated Contact Tracing Amid COVID 19 Biosurveillance or Uberveillance?


This lecture explores the ethics of automated contact tracing during a pandemic across diverse value based approaches that lead to value-laden judgments by stakeholders (e.g. government). Automated contact tracing can be defined as the mobile data collection of contacts that an individual has come into physical proximity with during a pandemic outbreak. This process includes contact identification, contact listing and follow-up and can be implemented using a number of sensor based technological solutions (Abbas and Michael, 2020). Thus, when we consider the application of value based design we must ask the questions: for whom, by whom, how and in what context? For example, why is it that some citizenry may view COVID-19 contact tracing applications as a form of uberveillance as opposed to biosurveillance? And how may a shift in values consciousness occur given the relationship of one’s beliefs and the written word (e.g. accepted narratives and their corresponding genres)? Will it ever be possible to overcome designer bias or systems-level bias, say in given artificial intelligence techniques? And what of the role of inherent values in controlling technologies (e.g. Global Positioning Systems), or those technologies shaped poorly “in context” (e.g. the application of QR codes for physical premises check-in through to wearable watches for condition monitoring)? This presentation will discuss the pros and cons of a global ethic approach to public interest technologies as compared to understanding local values within the context of communities and a process of inclusive design. 

Katina Michael is a professor at Arizona State University, holding a joint appointment in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Computing, Informatics and Decisions Systems Engineering. She is also the director of the Society Policy Engineering Collective (SPEC) and the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Technology and Society. Katina is a senior member of the IEEE and a Public Interest Technology advocate who studies the social implications of technology. She has held 14 annual workshops in the social implications of national security space and chaired 3 international symposia on technology and society (ISTAS) in Wollongong, Toronto and Phoenix. She is the Senior Editor of the socio-economic impact section in IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine and was the editor in chief of the award-winning IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. In 2019 she took on the role of working group chair for the IEEE P2089 standard. In 2020 she received the ICTO Golden Medal for lifetime achievement award for exceptional contributions to research in information systems, and the IEEE Phoenix section’s Outstanding Member Contributing to Global Humanitarian Projects Award for her contributions to a better understanding of the impact of emerging technologies on humanity. In 2017, she also received the Brian M. O'Connell Society on the Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) Distinguished Service Award. 

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