Countries continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic on a global level. Now that lockdowns are easing and life in many countries is slowly going back to normal, how can the public stay safe and identify people who might have been exposed to this novel virus! Since it’s tedious to do the detective work, we have the COVID tracking apps.
Are COVID Tracking Apps Effective?
How do these apps work? Are they efficient enough to identify the infected people in advance? An average consumer wants answers to these questions. The truth is the efficiency of such apps is not yet to be tested.
From what we know, these apps do help in slowing down the spread of the virus but with one condition. That is if enough of the population is using them. Unfortunately, these apps are raising privacy concerns because they must store user data for accurate results. The proponents of these apps say to be most effective, human contract tracers are still mandatory for conducting follow-up interviews.
Researchers and developers from the past few months are racing to design protocols for wining public trust and gaining wide adoption. Big giants like Apple and Google are in this expedition too but there’s no guarantee that any COVID-19 tracking app will work as intended. Also, widespread testing is mandatory for efficacy. The apps alone can’t do much.
How Do They Work?
Before digging into that, it’s important to understand that none of these apps work in the same. Some tracking apps in Spain and other western countries focus on self-diagnosing. They contain the Coronavirus guide, tips on monitoring symptoms, and notifying cases to the health authorities.
A questionnaire is shared based on which the user can check his symptoms. From this information, the app then provides recommendations. The user gets to know whether he needs to isolate himself or contract the health services.
There are such tracking apps too which require a user to share his or her geolocation data. This allows the authorities to gather information on how the virus is spreading in a particular region. Such apps prevent the COVID-19 hotlines from collapsing or waste time in gathering demographic data whenever a user calls.
The more sensitive data an app gathers, the more useful it becomes in preventing the spread of the virus. Another type of app is the self-quarantine safety protection app. It collects information on the health of the user, the places he has visited, and his current location. This data helps the authorities in alerting other citizens who could have contracted the virus.
Can Apps Break the Curve?
Researchers are considering how to put apps through random trials to see if this can bring down the infections. It’s not just costly but quite difficult.
What researchers can do is compare the infection rate among people who are using the apps and those who are against downloading them. It is believed that people who are at a higher risk of infect are most motivated to use a tracking app. This could swap the potential benefit to being with. Also, people fail to realize that these apps aren’t there to protect them, but the people they have contacted.
Experts sure can use technology to study the role of tracking apps in flattening or even breaking the curve. Unfortunately, whether or not it will work needs testing. Just like you would never know until you try.
Want to Download the App? Here’s How to Protect Your Data
After knowing how the COVID-19 tracking apps work, you may want to download one but refraining to do so because of privacy concerns. Not to worry, these tips can help protect your data:
- What will the app do with your data?
- Check for unnecessary functions
When you download an app, it asks to access other functions of your phone. If the app is requesting permission to access something that it doesn’t need, that’s also a red flag.
No app you come across is going to be 100% safe when it comes to data privacy. It’s best to go for the decentralized apps introduced by Google and Apple since they don’t store data in a centralized location.
COVID-19 tracking apps are useful for the general public. However, they are not put to use effectively because of privacy reasons and the need to conduct aggressive tests. They are readily available and easy to use. These apps can play their part keeping the public safe and preventing the spread.