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Shar in Atlanta, Georgia listens on AM920 “The Answer” and asked: ” With all the COVID-19 crisis, how are scientists, doctors and the government going to be able to track people who are positive for the virus, like they say they will do. I don’t know what type of device they can use to do that, but I’m sure you guys would know.”
Shar, they can use your phone.
Phones are equipped with GPS, can check for nearby WiFi networks (which are mapped in databases and can yield a location), and can connect to Bluetooth beacons.
The latest plans revolved around a specific disease tracking API that would limit the information given to any app that wants to track exposure by someone holding a phone so that no personally identifiable information is accessible.
The idea is that there will be a unique identifier, but it won’t be tied to a name, so other phones that are known to have been around the one with that unique identifier can be notified that they may have been exposed.
For that to work the user would have to install an app unless it was forced on as part of an OS update which may be problematic in some areas like California and Europe which have good data protection and privacy provisions.
Phones are also ideally suited to being tracking devices because most people tend to keep them near them at all times and unlike wearables virtually everyone has one.
Shar, you can also help scientists keep track of the virus by becoming a citizen scientist yourself. Here are a few apps you can download to contribute to the cause.
The apps are UCSF Eureka Research, COVID Symptom Tracker, and MyDataHelps. They were created by a university, a hospital, and a non-profit American medical research facility respectively. The goal of these apps is to try and gather as much information about the coronavirus from volunteers as possible to gain insight on how to beat this pandemic.
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