As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, governments around the world are constantly trying to find new solutions to help keep the situation under control. Right now, the focus is on implementing digital tracking and surveillance measures as part of the strategy to contain the spread of the virus.
At the moment, 47 tracing apps have been developed and can be downloaded in countries and regions all across the globe. Countries like Australia, China or Singapore are already using them extensively.
The contact tracing apps can help identify those who have been in contact with coronavirus confirmed patients. When a person tests positive for coronavirus, all the people who have come in contact with them recently receive a prompt notification on their phone, letting them know they have been potentially exposed to the virus.
In theory, these digital innovations can prove extremely useful and become great assets in the fight against COVID-19.
However, the way they are put into practice leaves many questions unanswered. The rush with which the apps have been developed and implemented raises concerns regarding privacy and application security best practices and issues.
There are many aspects that are still unclear and we don’t have enough information to understand or predict how these technologies will impact society. The fact that they collect sensitive data and are able to track every movement a person makes has led people to question their safety.
What’s more, there’s a lack of transparency that stems from not providing the public with clear privacy policies. Developers have different approaches when it comes to privacy policies and the technologies they use, making the situation that more confusing.
The data keeps on changing and there’s no one single source of information that can shed light on how the contract tracing apps really work.
What we do know though is that the system collects extensive personal data such as people’s identity, their location and even their online payment records to help authorities keep track of those who don’t respect the lockdown measures.
To express the current situation in numbers, let’s see what research on tracing apps tells us so far. More than half of the apps use Google and Facebook tracking.
With so many variables involved and so little information, it’s normal for the population to have trust issues regarding tracing apps.
The possible weaknesses in the systems can leave the door open for abuse and expose users to various threats, so until these issues are clarified and the public receives the answers it needs, there’s going to be a heated debate on the topic.