Contact-tracing apps promise to track COVID-19 without compromising privacy

Reporter: Lauren Sweeney
Credit: WINK News.

Experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci have been echoing sentiments that additional contact tracing needs to take place to properly identify and isolate people who might have come into contact with the coronavirus.

The tech world is taking note.

Contact-tracing, smartphone applications are in the works, and some claim to effectively trace those who’ve come into contact with the virus without compromising user privacy.

MIT’s Private Kit: Safe Paths allows COVID-19 positive patients to provide 28 days of location history to public health officials. Other users who have the app share their location data and can check to see if there is any overlap with COVID-19 positive location trails.

MORE: MIT – Private Kit: Safe Paths

The app developers claim that healthy users data never leaves their phone.

COVID, another app in development in partnership with Stanford University, also claims to put privacy first. COVID Watch uses Bluetooth contact events to alert users who have come into contact with another user who has tested positive for COVID-19.


“The clock starts when you download the app,” said Tina White, a Stanford doctoral candidate and co-founder of the app.

Users have to keep their Bluetooth enabled on their phones, and manually upload information when they’ve tested positive for coronavirus. According to White, those users will have to enter a code that will be verified by the CDC.

Then, any other user whose phone has come into close proximity of the phone of the user with the virus will get a notification.

“In order to keep it private, we’re not going to be using GPS,” White said. “You can’t see where you are; you can’t see who you are. It will say there were two people somewhere that were in contact with each other and one of those people later says they came down with a virus.”

COVID Watch is not yet available for download but should have a pilot version available by the middle of April.

Private Kit: Safe Path is currently available for download on both Android and IOS.

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