Covid-19 Contact Tracing Apps: Problems and privacy

Covid-19 Contact Tracing Apps: Problems and privacy

Technology has been incorporated into the detection and prevention of COVID-19, but despite their expected benefits, these apps have raised issues, which prompts the question of whether they are truly delivering the desired result.

In face of the fluctuating situation in the UK, people up and down the country are waiting for the pandemic to end. Since the outbreak last year, governments across the world have been incorporating technology into their fight against the virus.

One of them is the use of contact tracing apps. Despite the promised benefits such as alerting people and protecting patients’ close contacts, there have been a concerns regarding the app.


woman wearing gown and mask
Image: Jakayla Toney

Privacy concerns

During the pandemic, user data and privacy in these apps has become a topic of concern for many. Governments have had their fair share of criticism when it comes to masked data collection practices.

A survey by ExpressVPN shows that 84 per cent of American adults believe that the government will overstep with the data collected on these apps. Despite the Google/ Apple agreement having promised that the data on these apps will be stored on user’s phones, however there is no firm basis of truth with this claim.

Another problem is that some healthcare players claim that such privacy tactics defeat their operations. When the data is kept on the user’s phones, it makes it impossible for the healthcare sector to map the data for trends. Such trends would have been instrumental in identifying case hotspots and implementing better measures.

covid tracing app
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Adoption concerns

When it comes to adoption, there are a lot of other factors to consider. For example, not everyone has a smartphone. some people might own a smartphone of an older model which does not support the app. The NHS contact tracing app is not possible to run on older devices. This means that 20% of iPhones and 8% of Android phones in the UK are too old to install the software.

This makes it impossible for these people to download the contact tracing app. Unfortunately, there has to be at least a 60 per cent adoption rate for the program to work.


Functionality concerns

The idea for contact tracing apps was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a valid concern on how well this new model works. Incorrect alerts and notifications have been recorded for the UK contact tracing app, falsely notifying users to self isolate.

Leveraging digital approaches in such a digital age is not out of place. With the problems already faced by the contract tracing app, it seems like the wrong time to test something of this scale. The instability of the apps and the lack of transparency of where the data ends up are concerns that governments should address.

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