COVID-19 outbreak that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its alarming level of spread and severity, caused countries to use any available measure to combat its alarming spreading. Authorities at all levels of all affected countries have in addition to providing emergency support to its population, imposed a broad spectrum of measures from quarantines to restricted travel and outdoor activities.
Countries are trying to restrict their entire population, especially those who are under suspicion that they were in contact with individuals positive to COVID-19. Due to the frequent failure of individuals to comply with imposed restrictions, more precisely due to the failure of compliance with the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period, authorities are using everything at their disposal to stop such behavior.
With that being said, the question that arises is – what is at countries` disposal in this situation?
There are numerous reports that authorities worldwide opted to use special software and techniques more precisely face-recognition cameras, surveillance of mobile communications, credit card usage, social media in order to monitor their population and prevent breaches of imposed measures.
Balkan countries are no different in their commitment to stop and prevent such behavior and breaches of imposed measures, but instead of using special software and techniques, they decided to publish a list of all individuals who are subjected to the mandatory 14-days self-isolation.
Serbian authorities publicly declared that they will be tracking the phone location of those individuals entering the country from Italy, while Montenegro published online and up to date list of all individuals subjected to the 14-days self-isolation.
Bosnia and Herzegovina decided to follow the example of Montenegro, but due to its complexity, the measures or more particularly their intensity may vary depending on the entity (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska) or cantons in case of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH).
Certain authorities in FBiH decided to publish the names or those who are breaching the mandatory 14-day self-isolation, quickly followed by the Republic of Srpska, while Municipality of Konjic and Canton 10 in FBiH decided to publish not only the names of those who are breaching imposed measures but also published a list containing names, as well as the address of those infected and those who are obliged to be in self-isolation.
While all of the aforementioned was happening Personal Data Protection Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a Resolution on 24 March 2020 prohibiting the publication of personal data of those infected by COVID-19, as well as those subjected to self-isolation to all authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the fact that such publication represents a breach of Law on protection of personal data in Bosnia and Herzegovina and as such is deemed to represent an unlawful action.
Experts in public health are emphasizing that a decision to reveal the identities of people who are infected by COVID-19 or are under suspicion, would represent a disaster with far-reaching ramifications. In these specific circumstances, any leak of such personal information may lead to stigmatization of one part of the population that can cause a number of serious problems.
Bosnia and Herzegovina declared a state of natural and other disasters last week, and it remains to be seen what measures will local authorities impose in order to combat the pandemic of COVID-19 and more precisely will those measures lead to the breach of rights of individuals, including the right to privacy.