To the Editor,
While we appreciate IHE reporting on Oakland University’s efforts to use a wearable technology to limit COVID-19 outbreaks on campus (“Monitoring Vital Signs for COVID-19,” August 11, 2020), we would like to correct some misperceptions that the article may have caused.
The article quotes Amelia Vance as saying that by virtue of our choice to make the BioButton available we have “chosen not to weigh the adoption of the technology against any potential misuse or the psychological impact of this kind of surveillance of students.” We wish to suggest, rather, that we carefully weighed the privacy and security issues that pertain to use of the BioButton against the very real health dangers that COVID-19 present to our students, our faculty, our staff, and our community.
Vance does not specify any types of misuse or psychological impacts that might be associated with wearing the BioButton, but here again, the university looked very carefully how we could deploy the BioButton in ways that give the wearer control of their data and limit as much as possible what information the university has access to (only whether they are cleared or not cleared to come to class). Given the challenges of limiting the spread of a virus that has killed three quarters of a million people world-wide over the last six months, we believe that having access to a device that can warn you early that you might be infected, and can work as a tool to help limit spread of the virus to others might well have positive psychological benefit.
–David A. Stone
Vice president for research and professor of health sciences and philosophy