The response to the coronavirus pandemic has seen public health and the collective well being of nations prioritised over individual freedom of choice and movement, in order to keep the spread of the virus in check and mitigate the impact. In this first phase, in most countries calls for tighter lockdown and more decisive action have been greater than demands for individual liberty. But as countries look to move beyond emergency action then this may change and perhaps should. This Ditchley discussion will explore what is the right balance between freedom, control and order; between collective knowledge and the right to personal privacy.
What should the law regulate and what should it not? Should people be pressured to return to work or to school if necessary, or should that be left to the individual company or institution to determine? Should the police determine and enforce what is allowed as lockdown eases or should communities and institutions be encouraged to self regulate and allowed a degree of decentralised authority? How does this debate on personal freedom and privacy translate into the technological sphere? What is the appropriate balance between personal data privacy and the common good through sharing of personal information? How can companies as collective and commercial organisations navigate this heightened tension between individual freedom privacy and public responsibility? For citizens, will we emerge from lockdown more conscious of the value of our freedoms – and in turn strive to protect them – or less? Will our hunger to be free from disease be satisfied at the expense of our freedom to decide what we share with the world? How will this change how we view ourselves, government, companies and our societies?