Privacy issues regarding identifying COVID-19 victims.

Giving publicity to persons with known or suspected health conditions may raise invasion of privacy issues.  Further, in some cases it may be defamatory to identify a person as having or carrying a particular disease or it may violate privacy or confidentiality laws. It is unclear how privacy concerns will apply in this crisis, given that (a) COVID-19 is not a traditional “loathsome disease,” since most of the general population is susceptible, (b) there may be some public interest in identifying persons or circumstances relating to a particular infection, especially because of the disease’s highly communicable nature, (c) particular instances of behavior relating to the disease (including defiance of public orders and actions that could endanger others) may be particularly newsworthy, and (d) critical care and death are always highly intimate matters.  When a person voluntarily consent to being identified, there should be no privacy concerns, and that is generally but not always true when consent comes from other family members. Reporters and news managers should carefully consider ethical, personal, and social concerns as well as their newsworthiness evaluation.