Public health surveillance raises sensitive concerns in any time. Our own time of big data, Google, Edward Snowden, and routine database security breaches fosters divisive conversation about the benefits and accompanying perils of public health surveillance.

In the following Point-Counterpoint, four of the nation's leading experts in public health and bioethics consider these questions. Amy Fairchild and Ronald Bayer, in their Point essay, argue the merits of robust public health surveillance to promote and protect population health. George Annas and Wendy Mariner respond with a Counterpoint offering a more skeptical perspective. They argue that “collection of identifiable information requires justification within the human rights framework, in which the default principle is that research requires consent.”

This is an argument among friends. No proponent of robust public health surveillance would countenance ethical lapses exemplified by the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. No skeptic of public health surveillance would deny the need for aggressive...

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