We have apps on our phones that give us directions, allow us to play games, allow us to make purchases, and even allow us to turn off our lights remotely if we leave them on at home. And now it looks as though we have an app that can help deter the spread of COVID-19.
As of now, at least 10 states have rolled out their own version of this app with the goal of alerting people to exposure while, at the same time, protecting their privacy. While each state-run app varies a bit in nature, they all primarily share the same approach based on technology from Apple and Google. In order to use their technology, both companies mandated that states could not use mobile phone location data, thereby creating a level of trust from the consumer. Privacy issues are of great concern to most of us who operate any type of digital device.
So how does it work? Once the app is downloaded, it works in conjunction with the individual’s mobile phone technology. The app then begins collecting anonymized information about other phones it comes near. That information of the “digital handshake” is stored in the person’s phone.
Health officials give anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 a code to put into their app. Anyone who has been near that person in the previous two weeks receives an alert on their device. Realistically, in order for this to work, there needs to be a large mass of people who are willing to download and use the app. It is too early to know if this use of technology is helping put a stop to the spread of the Coronavirus, but at least it is an effort in the right direction.