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COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps: Managing Pandemic Spread or Ending Privacy for Individuals?

 

Faizel Patel – 13/06/2020

(Twitter: @FaizelPatel143)

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll worldwide including South Africa for both individuals and economies.

When an individual is found to be infected with the coronavirus, the race is on to find those who have come into contact with them, as these people could be carriers or even be infected.

This has led to hundreds of coronavirus contact-tracing mobile applications being developed worldwide and backed by various governments and national health authorities, as well as guidelines by the EU and special protocols developed by the two major smartphone OS vendors Apple & Google.

In some places, the usage of such applications have been made mandatory for people who want to gain access into public spaces.

While the technology and algorithms differ between applications, the promise of most coronavirus contact tracing apps is the same.

Erhagbai (Ayo) Uduokhai, Regional Lead, West Africa at Check Point says Africa can lead way when it comes to contact tracing.

“Africa has the chance to get ahead the rest of the world if we handle contact tracing right. By sharing the right information and providing the proper guidance we can control and even stop the pandemic.”

Check Point says when they looked at the adoption rates of coronavirus contact tracing applications in different countries, India’s Aarogya Setu leads the way with more than 100 million downloads from Google Play Store. This is largely because public and private workers in India are required to use it.

Gerak Malaysia has more than a million downloads from Google Play Store, while Singapore’s TraceTogether and Australia’s COVIDSafe have over 500,000 downloads each respectively.

In Europe, UK’s NHS COVID-19has yet to be deployed across the country, but is currently being piloted on the Isle of Wight. It currently has more than 50,000 downloads. Austria’s Stopp Corona has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, as has Norway’s Smittestopp.

Germany and France have yet to release an application, but there are plans to do so soon.

It looks like coronavirus contact tracing applications are here to stay. But in order for them to be successful, it is essential that people have full trust that their privacy is being preserved and their data is protected from misuse.

Check Point says as multiple fake apps have already been detected during the pandemic, their recommendation for end users is to only install contact-tracing COVID-19 applications from official app stores, since they only allow authorized government agencies to publish such apps.

In addition, they recommend users to download and install a mobile security solution to scan applications and protect the device against malware, as well as verify that the device has not been compromised.

Check Point says they will continue researching applications and frameworks, and publish any new or emerging issues they find.

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