COVID Tracking: App Puts Privacy at Risk

COVID Tracking: App Puts Privacy at Risk

( – As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, Big Tech is looking at ways they can help out. Apple and Google believe one of the ways they can aid in slowing the spread is with contact tracing apps. Experts in civil liberties, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) think this technology is a bad idea.

Contact Tracing Apps

Contact tracing technology uses Bluetooth to record when people who have the app downloaded on their phones are near one another. The apps sync and share IDs.

When a person who has the app tests positive, authorities can take the info from the infected person’s phone and see who they’ve come into contact with over the previous 14 days. Australia and Singapore are using this technology to help battle COVID-19.

Apple and Google teamed up to create a version of the tool for American users. Their system uses Bluetooth, too. If a user gets close to someone who has notified the app that they’re positive for COVID-19, an alert will go out to everyone who was in contact with them.

ACLU Sounds the Alarm

The ACLU is now warning Americans the contact tracing apps could pose a serious risk to “privacy, civil rights and civil liberties” if it’s not designed well. The organization points out that the technology only works if they’re free and widely used. That won’t happen, though, if citizens don’t trust their data will be protected.

A poorly designed app will put their personal information at risk. Additionally, if the government started requiring people who are positive to download the app, it would be a violation of a patient’s civil liberties.

The ACLU laid out some guidelines that they’d like tech companies to follow to keep Americans’ rights intact.

  • Contact tracing technology must be voluntary.
  • The app should only collect pertinent data.
  • Companies must ensure the data is destroyed.
  • The government must tell the public what data they are acquiring, how they’re using it and where they got it from.
  • Tech companies should only use this technology for COVID-19.
  • The data is only used for public health purposes.

What To Do

It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re not putting your personal information in danger. That means researching any app that you download. Make sure you know how companies will use your data and when they’ll delete it. This is one of those cases when reading the privacy terms of an app is going to be very important.

This technology is coming and if companies, along with the government, use it properly, it could save lives. However, if they take advantage of the situation, it’ll put everyone’s liberties in danger.

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