Apple and Google are developing privacy-preserving tools that could become the lingua franca of contact tracing. Most existing alternatives face headwinds that limit their helpfulness for health authorities.
Adoption: Most voluntary national apps have penetration rates well below 40%, according to MIT Tech Review, meaning downloads are short of the critical mass needed to make the technology effective.
Security: Qatar’s mandatory contact tracing app had a vulnerability that could’ve exposed the personal information of over 1 million citizens, per Amnesty International. Qatari authorities quickly patched the flaw.
Privacy: Chinese government officials are scheming to keep monitoring software on citizens’ phones indefinitely, which faces backlash from some social media users. In Hangzhou, officials have proposed a permanent health scoring system that would track sleep, alcohol use, and more.
Bottom line: The Apple/Google system could address these problems. Even so, software isn’t a silver bullet for contact tracing, which requires an army of human helpers.
+ While we’re here: European startups are racing to repurpose identification and authentication systems as digital immunity tech, the FT reports.