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The Ethics of Biosurveillance

  • S. K. DevittEmail author
  • P. W. J. Baxter
  • G. Hamilton
Articles
  • 137 Downloads

Abstract

Governments must keep agricultural systems free of pests that threaten agricultural production and international trade. Biosecurity surveillance already makes use of a wide range of technologies, such as insect traps and lures, geographic information systems, and diagnostic biochemical tests. The rise of cheap and usable surveillance technologies such as remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) presents value conflicts not addressed in international biosurveillance guidelines. The costs of keeping agriculture pest-free include privacy violations and reduced autonomy for farmers. We argue that physical and digital privacy in the age of ubiquitous aerial and ground surveillance is a natural right to allow people to function freely on their land. Surveillance methods must be co-created and justified through using ethically defensible processes such as discourse theory, value-centred design and responsible innovation to forge a cooperative social contract between diverse stakeholders. We propose an ethical framework for biosurveillance activities that balances the collective benefits for food security with individual privacy: (1) establish the boundaries of a biosurveillance social contract; (2) justify surveillance operations for the farmers, researchers, industry, the public and regulators; (3) give decision makers a reasonable measure of control over their personal and agricultural data; and (4) choose surveillance methodologies that give the appropriate information. The benefits of incorporating an ethical framework for responsible biosurveillance innovation include increased participation and accumulated trust over time. Long term trust and cooperation will support food security, producing higher quality data overall and mitigating against anticipated information gaps that may emerge due to disrespecting landholder rights.

Keywords

Biosurveillance Privacy Biosecurity Food security Ethics Autonomous agriculture Value-centred design Responsible innovation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Angela Daly and Tony Clarke and anonymous reviewers for comments that significantly improved the manuscript. PB and GH acknowledge support of the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Co-innovation Group, School of Information Technology and Electrical EngineeringThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Defence Science & Technology GroupFishermans BendAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for Future EnvironmentsQueensland University of Technology (QUT)BrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Quantitative Applied Spatial Ecology (QASE) group, School of Earth, Environmental and Biological SciencesQueensland University of Technology (QUT)BrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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