COVID-19 contact tracing on your cell phone

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TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — You’ve likely already heard of contact tracing for COVID-19: the process of identifying people who may have come in contact with someone infected with the virus. But soon, that data could be coming right from your cell phone.

NEWS10’ ABCs Anya Tucker spoke with technology security specialist Chris Lewis of GreyCastle Security in Troy.

Chris Lewis: “Google and Apple have this framework and what it does is, it works off of Bluetooth and it assigns a unique identifier to your phone. So, any contact tracing apps that are out there in the future, it allows those to work.”

But, this kind of contact tracing requires two main things: Bluetooth technology and a willingness from the public.

Basically, the Bluetooth on your phone would be logging with other phones that it comes into contact with.

And it would measure the amount of time and distance you spent around those individuals.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, those who were around them could be notified.

But, the phones can only do that if you and others around you have enabled a special COVID-19 tracking app.

“It’s one of those privacy first, nonmandatory apps that you need to opt-in for it to properly work,” says Lewis.

The technology is there, but no widely used app has been released yet. The companies say no personal information would be collected and it only uses
only numerical codes as identifiers.

But, Lewis says he would be concerned about hackers who wish to steal personal information.

Anya asks, “What would you want to see happen before you click the button and accept that app?”

Chris Lewis: “I would want to see some data around testing. So, how many people need to have the app enabled in order for this to be effective in our community? Is it actually going to work?”

Anya called around to Capital Region health departments. Out of those who responded, some said they are looking into this technology and others said they weren’t really interested- at least not yet.

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