Contact tracing tech benefits and privacy issues

Covid outbreak caught public health authorities off guard, with its high transmission and infection rate. Public health authorities under the WHO chalked out prevention strategies, chief among them is contact tracing.

What is contact tracing

Contact tracing is tracing the persons that had a physical contact or were close to a person who is confirmed to be a positive case of CoronaVirus. Research has shown that the approximate incubation period of the virus i.e. the time virus infects a person to the time symptoms appear is 14 days. So any person that had a close contact with a confirmed case is also at high risk, with contact tracing health authorities manually checked and took history of a persons contacts and then tested all those contacts.

Contact tracing Technology

With the rapid rise in cases and the limited human resource, it soon became clear that manual tracing would become less feasible, the authorities turned to technology assistance. Several technologies are being utilized worldwide.

App based

This involves asking the public to install specific apps that apart from providing corona related information, also inform about any nearby cases or positive close contacts. This involves utilizing the phones location services and bluetooth beacons. When a person becomes infected authorities use the data from the persons app to notify his/her contacts.

Network based

This is a bit of crude method that involves location tracking via cell phone towers, as the cell networks log the data of their subscribers, authorities can trace where a contact has travelled at a specific time and send an alert message to other nearby users that they might be exposed.

Military based

Some countries have employed these systems to effectively trace any contact, that might be evading the health advice or precautions. These systems originally designed for surveillance purpose for security have found a new civilian use.

The risks & privacy issues

Although contact tracing and isolation have been determined to be a necessary method to limit the spread and prevent health facilities from choking, privacy advocates have questioned the transparency of the process and the checks to prevent any un-approved use or invasion of personal life & privacy of the public, also such a huge data at the hands of a government raises eyebrows among the government dissenters.

Tech companies are putting their heads together to find a middle way. What is your opinion regarding contact tracing tech, do you support data collection for health safety or are more into privacy concerns tell us in the comments below

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