Covid Tracker refers to a free mobile device that effectively tracks or traces the spread of Covid-19. Functioning, efficiency, different types of applications, security … here is everything you need to know about this tool.
Table of contents
Covid Tracker : introduction
Covid Tracker was designed to track covid contact cases and effectively monitor the spread of the disease. The tool works with most smartphones and conducts many operations.
Covid Tracker sends an alert to the person if he/she is in contact with another one tested positive to Covid-19. This feature is effective once the application is installed and activated on the smartphone.
The device also allows to warn others in case the user himself is tested positive for the disease. At the same time, it provides advice on barrier gestures to protect others.
Covid Tracker can also track the symptoms of the disease. If the user is ill, the tool provides guidance on what to do. This device teaches people to live with Covid-19 by helping them protect themselves and others.
A strategy designed to contain the disease
Since the beginning of the pandemic, governments and health authorities have been working hard to contain the pandemic. To do so, they believe thata contact tracing strategy was necessary, especially with the relaxation of the containment measures.
Many avenues have been explored and identification of contact cases has been accepted as one of the most effective ways to help limit the spread of Coronavirus.
Technological solutions have been proposed to automate the tracking process. Health and government authorities have selected contact tracking applications for smartphones.
Nevertheless, this method raises debate in the scientific community and among the public. The protection of privacy in particular, but also the effectiveness of the applications are controversial. Nevertheless, many think that Covid Tracker remains a viable pandemic mitigation strategy.
Covid Tracker: the question of compatibility between Android and iOS
To ensure that Covid Tracker apps can communicate with each other without compatibility issues, Apple and Google have developed an API (an application programming interface).
Thanks to this, health applications can talk to each other and access the functionalities they need regardless of the operating system used. It will then be up to each country to develop compatible applications and provide the actual interface to users.
To benefit from this monitoring toolthe user must download the application and activate it. It should be noted that the installation of the application does not automatically activate it. The user can choose to do it, or not.
Covid Tracker and personal data security
A device running a fully enabled Covid-19 tracking application will register other phones (still with an enabled application) that it comes in contact with. Connectivity is via Bluetooth.
The connections do not contain no identifying information about the user. Smartphones use random numerical identification codes to communicate.
The applications record how long the user has been in contact with other people, or rather other individual phones. The application also determines the distance between individuals based on the strength of Bluetooth signals.
Non-nominal notifications with Apple and Google API
If a user has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, the app will let them know. But it will not see the name of the infected person nor when or where it happened.
This notification means that the user becomes a contact case. The user must then take the necessary measures: get tested, confined, treated. No personally identifiable information will be accessible by Apple or Google.
In addition, for each country, the applications must meet specific criteria for privacy, security and data control, said officials from the apple firm and the Mountain View giant. But not all apps have this anonymizing capability.
Covid Tracker and privacy rights
According to Human Rights Watch, these applications present serious risks to privacy rights. They also argue that the usefulness of these geolocation programs has not yet been proven.
These tracking tools may also introduce unnecessary and disproportionate surveillance measures under the guise of protecting and promoting public health. Some restrictions on rights may be justifiable in the context of a health emergency, but not all.
Coercing individuals to turn over personal data for use by untested technologies is not legitimate. Deborah Brown, digital rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, says she understands the need to contain the pandemic, but without ubiquitous surveillance.
Geolocation of contact cases and human rights risks
Human Rights Watch urges governments to not to use unapproved applications. According to this organization, history has already proven time and again that the introduction of surveillance often goes too far, beyond the objectives and limits initially set.
Moreover, the invasion of privacy can open the door to other infringements of rights, such as freedom of movement or expression. In some countries, Human Rights Watch is concerned that this surveillance will lead to granular targeting. The latter can be used by governments to enforce draconian quarantine measures
The organization also warns that such applications could exclude marginalized groups who lack access to the Internet and mobile technology. This would put their health and livelihoods at risk.
The different types of Covid Tracker applications
There are several types of Covid Tracker applications depending on their primary functionality among which:
- Contact tracking applications.
- Quarantine applications. These tools are designed to monitor people who are supposed to be in containment after testing positive or in contact with a positive case.
- symptom reporting applications.
- Multi-functional applications that combine all these functions.
The majority of these applications are developed by private companies or start-ups, with or without support from government agencies. Their use should not be mandatory. Nevertheless, in some countries, governments have strongly pushed for the adoption of these applications. Others, like China, have made them mandatory.
Case of AllAntiCovid
In France, public and health authorities have chosen the TousAntiCovid application to complement the barrier gestures to contain the pandemic. Beyond its primary functions, this tool also allows the user to find a vaccination center nearest vaccination center. AllAntiCovid also serves as a support for the health pass digital format.
The way it works remains the same: download the app from the App Store or Google Play, install it and activate it. Upon testing, a positive person receives a code to embed on TousAntiCovid.
Anyone who stays in close proximity to that infected subject for 15 minutes or more will be notified. The use of this application is voluntary. For privacy reasons, the tool does not activate GPS. The application relies on Bluetooth to track contacts.
On the other hand, the recorded data are automatically deleted after 15 days on the phones that have crossed each other. The user can uninstall the application at any time. And finally, this tool will be permanently cancelled by the authorities once the epidemic is over.