COVID-19 Tracing Apps: Are they secure enough to protect the right of privacy?

AuthorAlbuquerque, Carolina

September 1, 2020By Carolina Albuquerque

It is almost impossible to know somebody who does not have a smartphone they use for almost every purpose: to send e-mails, to search for a new apartment or to navigate using the map features. The technology seems limitless. If a new problem arrives, technology can present an answer or an effective resolution.

For this reason, the uncertainty created by the coronavirus has led governments to find new technological ways to try to control the spread of the disease. As a result, smartphone apps were created to help track people's movement and consequently help the government to manage this new catastrophic and unpredictable situation.

As an example of this, Alberta's government launched in May the ABTraceTogether app to improve contact tracing. As explained by the government, the app uses a phone's Bluetooth to log anytime it comes within two metres of another person with the app for more than 15 minutes. Also, more recently at the end of July, the federal government launched the COVID Alert app. First launched in Ontario, the app alerts Canadians when they have contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Although it is undeniable that smartphones have revolutionized the way that people behave in this decade, it is also evident that all of this technology raises another relevant issue. The uncertainty about privacy and protection of personal information seems to be an immediate consequence of the increased use of technology. Concerns about the safety of the information stored can hinder people from downloading these new apps.

How do these new apps work?

Both apps mentioned above work in a similar way: the app uses Bluetooth technology to log and exchange codes with phones that are nearby. Your app will be able to detect everyone who you have been close to and who has downloaded the app. If a person eventually tests positive for COVID-19, the government will be able to trace and contact everyone who was recently in contact with the infected person.

But I must emphasize: As explained by the Alberta government, the infected person must allow the government to access all the data collected by the ABTraceTogether app before the government contacts anyone. Without this consent, the encounter history data will not be shared with the government.

Is it mandatory for people to download these new apps?

The answer to this question is short and simple: no, it is not. No one in the country is obliged...

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