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Big Tech companies are going all-in when developing tracking technology. The goal of this effort is to create a system of contact tracing so that it is easier to determine where the COVID-19 clusters form. Although this work may be helpful to open economies and warn people of possible exposure, significant privacy concerns must also get reviewed.

Apple and Google might be working together to create these tracking features, but will the general public trust what they eventually develop?

Owners Must Opt-in to This Service

The aggression toward people who wear masks or choose not to do so, depending on one’s perspective, is creating a political divide where people are already resisting the idea of further life intrusions.

If someone refuses to wear a mask in public, then the likelihood of that person opting in for a tracking program to disrupt future COVID-19 infections is unlikely.

This system wouldn’t account for any positive behaviors, either. Even if you took items from companies like Irwin Naturals, Nutramedix, or Standard Process, the app focuses on infections and proximity only. 

The goal of this collaboration from Big Tech is to have your phone notify you whenever you come close to someone who tested positive for coronavirus. This digitized version of contact tracing happens faster than manual methods, helping healthcare workers to track down an initial patient.

By catching up with the person who tested positive, authorities can get ahead of the disease. It can stop people from passing it on. This outcome also means that our social circles and daily activities get tracked by companies who profit from that information.

What If I Don’t Have a Mobile Device?

Digital contact tracing requires people to have a mobile device on them at all times. It would also require the sharing of medical information that compromises personal privacy for the good of the general population.

Let’s say that you decide to download the contact tracing app. Once you activate the software, your phone or tablet starts broadcasting an encrypted code that identifies your presence. You receive the same information from other devices.

If you test positive for COVID-19, then you’d inform a secure server operated by Big Tech. Then Apple and Google would alert the phones of anyone in your proximity over the past two weeks. Anyone receiving this notification would then report for testing, qualify for quarantine, or receive medical treatment.

Is it worth sacrificing privacy for this benefit? If you don’t have a mobile device, then you don’t get to participate. Past attempts have found cross-platform failures that make it impossible to track enough people to make it useful. If the government doesn’t make this structure mandatory, then it will be up to each person to determine if they are comfortable sharing this information.

Scott Larson