COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps: Privacy & Other Concerns

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COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps: Privacy & Other Concerns

In face of the coronavirus, the world is doing everything it can to ensure that we are back to the regular routines of work and play like before. The process has led to the popularity of contact tracing apps.

However, the question on the minds of many is if these apps will work at all. If they do work, to what extent? Finally, assuming they work, are they not going to be too much of a privacy risk and tradeoff?

Let’s look at some concerns about contact tracing apps.

Factors Swaying the Decisions

Privacy

In many parts of the world, the concerns about how private and secure these apps will be is a huge concern.

A survey in the US revealed that 71% of respondents wouldn’t use contact tracing apps, with privacy cited as the leading reason. People believe that the contact tracing apps are a way for the government to invade the citizen’s privacy since they have no exact knowledge of where the data will be used. 

To address this concern , Apple and Google have come together in an alliance that promises transparency and zero data-logging. Since both companies are responsible for almost all the mobile market share in the world, that makes sense.

They will not be building any apps of their own. They will however be strictly regulating any contact tracing apps to ensure that they do not breach the user’s privacy. One of the ways that the aim to do this is keeping all the data stored locally on the user’s phones.

While that means no centralized data location where things can be copied, it also poses concerns of its own. For example, it is now impossible for health organizations to run necessary data analytics, which can help them come up with preventive models, establish infection hotspots and more.

Effectiveness

Due to the people’s reluctance to share their data with the government, the adoption rate of the app would be low. However, the app adoption needs to cut across 80% of the population for it to have enough information to perform its functions. Without forcing the people (via incentives or penalties), that will not be possible. If these measures were forced, the already-strained trust that the people have in the government will go further down the drain.

The Way Forward

There is no denying that these contact tracing apps can work. We also love the fact that the two mobile OS giants have come together to ensure user data is not misused.

Unless the concerns abounding around these apps get solved, we might not see these apps being used widely. The effectiveness of the app would also be questionable.