At last, it seems that we are heading towards what they call the “new normal”. A somewhat different stage, in which physical contact is limited and in which we will be forced to pose in front of thermal cameras to take our temperature. From now on, we will have to get used to being pointed with a kind of barcode reader to check if we have a fever. These small devices are called thermal cameras and will be part of our day today for a while.
Since the de-escalation began, it is common to see lines of people waiting in front of the entrance of work centres, in train stations and in stores. They all wait to be told if they are fit or not to enter, that is, if they have a fever or not. One of the clearest symptoms of Covid-19 is the rise in temperature of the person. Thus, many spaces have been made with thermal cameras to “control” who is healthy and who could be infected.
The thermal imagers are devices which thanks to emitting radiation humans (and all objects) and an optical system, are able to assign each colour thermal value and transform it into an image. Thus, you can see how hot a person is.
The higher the temperature of the individual, the more radiation they will emit, and that in the image translates into warm colours. That is, the more yellow/orange there is on the screen, the higher the temperature of the person.
Where is the Limit of Having or Not Having a Fever?
Many people say that their usual temperature is 37ºC, while for others it is normal not to rise above 36ºC. With thermal cameras, the procedure that is followed is as follows: the average temperature of the group is calculated and 1ºC is added. If someone exceeds that number it could be a case of fever.
If this circumstance occurs, the person is placed in isolation and their temperature is taken individually with a thermometer. Only then could it be confirmed that it does indeed have tenths.
Is the use of Thermal Cameras Legal?
The processing of personal data, and more so if it is about health data, is something especially delicate. Thus, this new rule is raising doubts and some inconveniences.
However, the general data protection regulation states that in exceptional situations such as a pandemic, the use and knowledge of personal (and health) data are lawful. As long as they are necessary to protect people’s lives.