Since the Covid 19 pandemic, discussions on the issue have emerged as a hot topic as the values of the public interest, such as individual human rights, personal information (privacy), and people’s lives and safety, have conflicted.
How far should individual information be protected and disclosed amid the national disaster of “new infectious disease”?
Citizens who complain about the lack of information on confirmed cases to each local government insist that all individual information necessary to cope with the common disaster of infectious diseases should be disclosed. On the other hand, it is pointed out that excessive disclosure of personal information that can violate an individual’s privacy should be avoided.
Some have criticized that the disclosure of transparent identification lines, which are considered one of the successful measures of the Korean government’s new coronavirus infection, is effective in securing a quarantine system.
In particular, some foreign media outlets in Europe voiced strong criticism over the Korean quarantine authorities’ disclosure of personal information. For example, the French business magazine pointed out that “Korea is a country that has abandoned individual freedom.” On the contrary, Germany’s Spiegel and others commented positively, saying, “It may be seen as an invasion of privacy, but in the end, these measures secured another freedom for the people.”
The legal basis for the disclosure of information on the mobility routes of confirmed persons of Covid 19 in Korea shall be governed by Article 76-2 (1) and (2) (2) of the Act on the Prevention and Management of Infectious Diseases (hereinafter referred to as the Infectious Diseases Prevention Act). Article 34-2 (1) shall apply to the scope of disclosure of movements and personal information of confirmed persons. Paragraph 1 stipulates that people should quickly disclose information they need to know to prevent infectious diseases, such as the route of infected patients, means of transportation, medical institutions, and contactors. In particular, Article 76-2 (2) states that the basic right of privacy or privacy may be limited by law by the strong public interest purpose of preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Due to the disclosure and tracking of personal information under the Act on the Prevention of Infectious Diseases, Korea was able to receive a successful Covid-19 quarantine report card rather than other countries.
On the other hand, Europe and the U.S., which prioritize personal information protection, decided to block contact with confirmed people by receiving anonymous information through Bluetooth to respect privacy rights and protect personal information. However, the infection rate progressed faster than the development speed of the technology, which resulted in the failure of the Covid-19 quarantine.
However, the successful quarantine results in Korea cannot justify the excessive disclosure of a large number of personal information and damaging it. This is because the indiscriminate disclosure of personal information exposes the private lives of individuals who do not want to be known to a large number of anonymous people, resulting in “social stigma.”
The government’s transparent policies and institutional arrangements should be supported to prioritize the public interest while minimizing the infringement of personal information in special national disasters. Even if personal information is processed under special laws such as the Prevention of Infectious Diseases Act, the basic principles of the Personal Information Protection Act, such as the principle of minimum collection and the principle of suitability for purpose, shall be observed.