Coronavirus: Why are There Doubts Over Contact-Tracking Apps

BY CYBER POLE | Updated April 22, 2020

The coronavirus has brought the world to a standstill, even with the latest technology, there seems to be no trustworthy approach in dealing with the situation. The major question arises is whether the mobile app will be technically accurate in collecting data of corona symptomatic as well as asymptomatic individuals.

Smartphones companies are developing software to alert customers who come in contact with infected persons. Although it is a good initiative, experts still doubt about the credibility of such a system. Likewise, others want equal human interference in addition to the initiative. What is more concerning is the “unprecedented surveillance of the society” being the dead-end factor.

Why is It a Concerning Factor?

The application of contact tracing allows close monitoring of smartphone owners for a significant period. Therefore, the system employs various aspects such as Global Positioning System (GPS), location data and Quick Response (QR) codes. Those who have been infected or have come in contact will receive a cascade of alerts.

But this is not the same what engineers and executives from one of the largest enterprises of the US that hold data location of Americans say. They even claim about the unsuitability of determining contact regarding the COVID-19 cases. In fact, most of the countries are skipping this technology and going for detection through wireless Bluetooth signals. At some point, this can be beneficial but cannot track the exact occurrence.

However, critics also claim that there would still be a miss match on a larger scale as some smartphones detect signals up to 30m without determining the distance. On the other hand, phones may also cause interference when in close contact resulting record by mistake or due to a miss-match.

Contact tracking apps won’t be able to detect factors such as environment, ventilation, the direction of the wind, etc and these being one of the important factors for manual tracing. Likewise, digital tracing may unnecessarily be opening other forms of fraud and abuse such as false report, denial and multiple device usage. However, a researcher from the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute suggests that false alert will only let people go on quarantine further slowing down the spread.

The Efficiency of Manual Tracker

Trace Together, a Singapore based application developed by Jason Bay to track human transmission also states that, no Bluetooth contact-tracing system either deployed or under development can replace manual contact tracing. Not even with the state of the art technology of AI can be beneficial.

Manual contact tracing uses a systematic approach by intermixing professionals from all the areas. Along with volunteers, medical experts and veterinary students, the database can be collected and further traced.

Privacy Concerns

Although the government promises to restrict information within healthcare reach, there is no relevant strategy of how the government is going to manage the usage of data. Another big concern is the extraction of data deliberately from phones for other purposes.