Coronavirus Contact Tracing Poses Risk of Privacy Violations - Are You Concerned?
Are you worried about privacy violations stemming from contact tracing efforts?
by Causes | 5.1.20
What’s the story?
- The capacity to conduct contact tracing of people who’ve potentially been exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19) is often cited by public health officials as a capability that they need to enhance as states and localities begin reopening their economies from pandemic-induced shutdowns.
- Privacy advocates warn that done improperly, contact-tracing could compromise sensitive health information and lead to further intrusions in the future, either by state actors, marketers, or hackers.
- Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) told the Los Angeles Times:
“What I am afraid of is some folks in the tech community will use this huge public need as a way to invasive with private data and create a beachfront in the health sector. It is not like the big platforms are coming at this with clean hands.”
What is contact tracing?
- Contact tracing is the practice of notifying people who may have been exposed to coronavirus by coming into contact with an infected person so that they can be tested and quarantined.
- It can be done using technological tools, or by staff tasked with the job of retroactively tracing the movements of an infected person to find people who may have come into contact.
What contact tracing efforts are underway in the U.S.?
- An April 28th report by NPR found that in 41 states and the District of Columbia there were at least 7,600 people currently doing contact tracing work, and plans were underway to surge that capacity to 36,587 workers. Estimates of the necessary total of contact tracing workers vary widely from 100,000 to 300,000.
- Apple and Google are developing a system that would allow people who choose to participate to be notified of potential exposure. The joint Apple-Google effort is being planned as a two-phase system in which public health departments develop their own apps to exchange contact tracing information, and eventually that capability will be built directly into the phones’ operating systems.
- North Dakota and Utah are among the states that have launched or are in the process of developing voluntary contact tracing apps. Users can report symptoms in addition to receiving notifications about potential exposure, which allows health officials to identify potential clusters.
- The recently enacted “phase 3.5” coronavirus relief bill included $25 billion in funding for improving testing and tracing capacity in the U.S., including $11 billion set aside for state & local governments.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Bill Oxford)
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