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Great data, great responsibility
Written by Erica Salowe, researcher
Edited by Harriet Moll, creative director
9 April 2020
Like many other millennials, I want you to know who I am. I’ll happily get on my cyberspace soapbox and shout into the void about where I went to university, the places I’ve travelled, and the latest birds I’ve spotted in the garden. The successful indoctrination of social media has conditioned me to trade a certain amount of privacy for the rush of being seen.
Yet as governments eyeball technology to track citizens’ movements in order to monitor the spread of Covid-19, I suddenly feel hesitant divulging my whereabouts. Testing shortages and mounting criticism have spurred an enthusiastic – and perhaps rushed – relationship between politicians and various data gatekeepers.
Sidestepping explicit consent, Google is publishing anonymised community mobility reports that use location data to trace how often people frequent areas like parks and workplaces. UK health chiefs are exploring the option of an Oxford University coronavirus app that uses Bluetooth and GPS to alert individuals if they’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
In the US, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have enlisted mobile advertisers to use GPS data to keep tabs on Americans; this location data is accurate within five metres, and individuals can be tracked over an extended period of time. Germany, historically a libertarian maverick in data protection, considered developing their own app to track the contacts of those infected with coronavirus.
Recognising public health authorities risk encroaching upon peoples’ fundamental privacy rights, the European Commission called for a common EU approach to minimise data collection while using tracking technology. The Commission reasoned that convincing citizens to trust digital efforts by ensuring privacy safeguards is the best way to drive usage of a pan-European app.
A technology called homomorphic encryption claims to contact trace while completely preserving privacy, though it is unclear whether governments will adopt this method.
Undoubtedly, there is a widespread desire for the world to return to its state before the arrival of coronavirus; equally, with so many lives at stake, sacrificing privacy seems like a small price to pay. It is worth considering now what happens once the crisis ends, and whether we wish our governments to let go of access to this health data or rather rationalise its continued use as part of prevention from a new contagion.
In the first key government decision to be taken while Boris Johnson remains in hospital, Dominic Raab is expected to announce the continuation of strict lockdown measures to last beyond next week. Experts anticipate the country’s peak is more than a week away, and ministers are concerned that signalling more lenient measures could trigger a change in public behaviour.
In response to criticism from US President Donald Trump, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hascalled for unity and for countries to stop the politicisation of the coronavirus pandemic. The message comes after Trump threatened to pull US funding from the United Nations health agency.
Using existing machines, NHS laboratories intend to carry out tens of thousands of antibody tests daily to help staff and patients discern whether they have recovered from Covid-19. NHS labs hope this rate increases to 90,000 antibody tests per day in a couple of months’ time. (£)
Business and economy
As the pandemic forces companies to slash pay outs, new research estimates that over £52 billion in UK company dividends are expected to be at risk this year. In a worst-case scenario prediction, Link Group says that dividend payments are predicted to fall as much as 53% to £46.5 billion in 2020. (£)
A United Nations study from experts at King’s College London and Australian National University has estimated that the economic impact of coronavirus could increase global poverty by up to half a billion. If the results prove accurate, it will be the first time poverty has increased globally in 30 years.
Leading British tech companies including Deliveroo, Citymapper, Bulb and Blockchain have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to complain that theycannot access the state-backed bailout scheme. Just 2,500 small and medium-sized organisations have reportedly been able to secure emergency loans. (£)
Sales expectations for the UK housing market are expected to drop to their lowest level in over 20 years due to the impact of coronavirus. The market has been hit just as it was recovering from the 2016 Brexit vote. (£)
Columns of note
In The Guardian, Martin Kettle argues that the Covid-19 crisis calls for British leadership that is practical, open and trusted. A Reuters report supports Kettle’s claim that UK politicians and scientific advisers failed in the coronavirus response because of a joint reluctance to heed the approach of the virus, with officials instead opting for a façade of normalcy to avoid causing panic. Though leadership is no easy task, the pandemic has taught us that leaders cannot shy away from acknowledging imminent threats and must establish a structure for rational policymaking.
In The Times, David Aaronovitch comments on the distressing intrusion of partisan politics and populism in the global search for a drug that can fight coronavirus. US president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro have both advocated for the drug hydroxychloroquine, though trials have not yet sufficiently proven the effectiveness of the drug in tackling Covid-19. Aaronovitch wagers that the praise for hydroxychloroquine has more to do with political beliefs and prejudices than concern in alleviating the widespread infection, and implicitly warns readers that such malign intent could lead to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. (£)
What happened yesterday?
US stocks had extended their gains yesterday afternoon in anticipation of coronavirus cases coming to a peak, with the S&P 500 ending up 3.4% and the Nasdaq Composite gaining 2.6%. European markets were not as optimistic, with the Stoxx Europe 600 almost flat, Frankfurt’s Dax 30 dropping 0.2%, and the FTSE 100 losing 0.5% to 5677.73. The FTSE 250 fared better, gaining 1.89% at 15862.83. A meeting between EU finance ministers on emergency lending ended without agreement.
To keep you appraised of how the corporate landscape is managing under lockdown, the following organisations have updated the markets:
UK insurers RSA, Direct Line, Aviva and Hiscox have decided to pull dividend payments due to the impact of Covid-19.
Airbus has said it is decreasing production by one-third, which will likely lead to layoffs throughout the global aerospace supply chain.
In a bid to conserve funds, Linklaters LLP has suspended its quarterly pay-out to partners, telling staff that the firm also planned to postpone salary reviews by six months and divide bonus payments by two tranches.
The Royal Bank of Scotland has reported that over 130 jobs had been cut in its investment banking division in the midst of Covid-19 developments. RBS pushed on with restructuring of NatWest Markets, despite its competitors pausing similar initiatives.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed a plan to help customers avoid scams and receive necessary support from financial services providers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
HSBC and Standard Chartered announced their top executives would forgo their cash bonuses for this year, as well as donate a portion of their salaries to charities aiding those impacted by the crisis.
After running out of cash and losing its ability to trade, the Jewish Chronicle is set to close and lay off all staff. The organisation was established in 1841 and is the world’s oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper.
What’s happening today?
UK economic announcements
(00:01) RICS Housing Market Survey
(07:00) Gross Domestic Product
(07:00) Balance of Trade
(07:00) Index of Services
(07:00) Manufacturing Production
(07:00) Industrial Production
Int. economic announcements
(08:00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(08:00) Current Account (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
(15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)
(15:00) Wholesales Inventories (US)
You can hear a blue whale’s heartbeat from more than 2 miles away.
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