Will applications that track contacts of infected people really help to contain the coronavirus pandemic? Mobile Apps, What’s more, good or bad, let’s look at our article.
In a number of countries, including Germany, France, UK, and USA, work is underway to develop applications for mobile phones that notify contact with a person infected with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Supporters of such programs are convinced that if enough people use them, it will help prevent further spread of the pandemic.
Technologies to track the movements of people who have come into contact with COVID-19 are now being developed by IT giants such as Google and Apple. At the same time, many experts doubt the effectiveness of such applications and warn about their dangers. One of them is Patrick Breyer, a member of the European Parliament and expert of the Pirate Party on network security and personal data protection.
Such applications are effective not so much in containing infection as in tracking people – if only because many of those who are infected with the virus do not use them. It would be a total illusion to hope that 60 percent of the population – or even more – will install these applications on their smartphones. In Singapore, which has the longest experience with such technologies, only 20 per cent of the population uses them, and in Austria only five use them. Their benefits are therefore highly questionable – as opposed to the danger they pose to our privacy and fundamental rights.
I think that if people really knew what danger these applications pose, they would be much more careful when installing them. They are already dangerous if only because their manufacturers – Apple and Google – are making changes to the operating systems of all smartphones to install such software. And no one knows exactly what they’re changing – they don’t let anyone know. They say it’s a trade secret.
Then, these applications are not standardized at all within the European Union. Some countries, such as France, want to collect personal data from users on central government servers, not on decentralized servers. Many people are thinking about making the download of this application mandatory. This means that if you are going to go to a restaurant or travel, you will be obliged to download this application. And no one will ask if you want it or not.
China should be a role model. There’s an authoritarian regime that abuses this technology to monitor the population, puts people in jail and oppresses minorities. I am sure that in order to cope with the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we need sufficient protective equipment, a well-trained health system and the motivation of the population. In addition, we need enough tests. So far, that is all quite often lacking. We also need vaccines that are available. And we need to prepare for future pandemics. And the development of new technologies is not going to fill all these gaps.