The Use of Covid-19 Digital Applications and Unavoidable Threats to the Protection of Health Data and Privacy

Patrycja Dabrowska-Klosinska, Agnieszka Grzelak, Agnieszka Nimark

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This paper starts with a dilemma. How to ensure the adequate protection of individual health data and privacy in a global pandemic, which has intensified the use of digital applications for the purposes of data sharing and contact-tracing? There is no simple answer to this question when choosing between the protection of public health and individual privacy. However, the history of the existing case-law regarding infectious diseases control, both Polish and European, teaches about numerous examples in which health data and privacy were not adequately protected, but, on the contrary, were misused leading to human rights infringements. In light of this case law and public health ethics, this paper argues radically that the use of digital applications to fight the Covid-19 pandemic has not been sufficiently justified at least in the Polish context. Especially, unconvincing benefits from the use of these tools do not outweigh the likelihood of human rights infringements with far-reaching consequences for political, social and economic rights now and in the future. In its novelty, this article combines a historical-legal method with the concept of public health ethics and a human rights-based approach and to foster further research and discussion. The text also responds to the pressing need to analyze those human rights issues embedded in the Polish reality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-94
Number of pages34
JournalBialostockie Studia Prawnicze
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Th is research was in part supported by the project THEMIS (2018–2021; Principal Investigator:
Patrycja Dąbrowska-Kłosińska) of the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under
the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 746014


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