Seeing With Transparency: Mapping the Privacy-Security Controversy Over Digital Contact Tracing in Vietnam
Tracing the debates among technical experts across GitHub, social media, blogging platforms, and diasporic and state news media, this article examines a public controversy surrounding user privacy and app security regarding Bluezone, Vietnam’s national digital contact tracing app. Using controversy mapping, a method rooted in the actor-network theory, the article approaches what appears to be a highly technical debate among experts and displays the various actor associations through which the controversy is fought and social arrangements established. Arguing that the technical transparency produced through open-source architecture is incompatible with the epistemic transparency conducive to transformative politics, the article demonstrates the kind of work that transparency is made to do in a conspicuously nontransparent governmental context through an open-source architecture. It also argues that transparency can neither be relied on as a framework for legitimacy nor welcomed as a substitute for formal institutional structures that ensure accountable governance of public socio-technical systems.