Connect with us

Coronavirus Outbreak

Scientists Bat For Smartphone Contact Tracing To Fight COVID-19, But Say Privacy Remains A Concern

Government across the world are relying on contact tracing mobile apps, as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, however, scientists say this technology can be used in helping medical authorities to track potential patients while preserving individual privacy

Scientists Bat For Smartphone Contact Tracing To Fight COVID-19, But Say Privacy Remains A Concern
Highlights
  • Contact tracing can help in preventing spread of COVID-19
  • It uses phone's Global Positioning System and Bluetooth
  • Scientists are developing contact tracing apps to protect user privacy

New Delhi: Scientists across the world believe that contact tracing using smartphone apps, such as India’s Aarogya Setu, may help control the COVID-19 pandemic and ease the world out of the lockdown, while also flagging privacy issues with the technology-driven intervention. Experts say the technology can help trace all the people who come in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, helping medical authorities to track potential patients, test them, and further prevent the spread.

Also Read: Taking Cue From Other Countries, Centre Launches Aarogya Setu Mobile App To Monitor Coronavirus Cases, Curb Transmission

As India entered the second phase of lockdown from April 15, the government launched Aarogya Setu application which it said can track COVID-19 cases in addition to having other uses. Aakash Sinha, an assistant professor at Shiv Nadar University in Uttar Pradesh, told PTI,

There are two parts to contact tracing — the first thing is that it traces your location through applications like Aarogya Setu and other apps used worldwide. The second part is that wherever you have been, whomever you are coming in contact with can also be traced. If I have the app and you also have it. So when I meet you, the apps can register that we came in close proximity.

Contact tracing is being used by China, South Korea and many other countries that have successfully controlled the spread of the virus, Mr. Sinha noted. He explained that the location of the places where a person goes is traced by using their phone’s Global Positioning System (GPS) network as well as the location history.

Many of these apps also have a way to share information via Bluetooth or a Wi-Fi if they are very close, and that way this information exchange is done if somebody came in contact with an infected person, he noted.

A global race to develop smartphone apps and other types of mobile phone surveillance systems to track and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus has started. After studying the dynamics of the early coronavirus epidemic in China, researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK have demonstrated that almost half of all transmissions occurred before anyone showed symptoms.

Also Read: What Are The Different Stages Of COVID-19 Transmission, Experts Explain

They also estimated that delaying contact tracing by even a day from the onset of symptoms could make the difference between epidemic control and coronavirus resurgence. To respond to this, the team rapidly conceptualised a simple mobile contact tracing app that it said can help control the spread of the novel coronavirus, save lives, and ease the population out of lockdown.

To boost the prospects of contact tracing, Google and Apple recently announced that they are working on a framework for smartphone apps that may help reopen the world economy. In the US, Boston University scientists, including one of Indian origin, are working on a smartphone app that could let people know if they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, while protecting their privacy.

The app being developed by researchers, including Mayank Varia, uses Bluetooth-enabled cell phones to notify a person if they have come into close proximity with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

However in order to work efficiently, the app requires many people to use it, whether they have had COVID-19 or not, the researchers said. Similarly, scientists at University College London (UCL) in the UK have developed a new Bluetooth contact tracing app for detecting COVID-19 proximity, which they say will help epidemiologists to analyse the spread of the pandemic while fully protecting individual privacy.

The system ensures no personal data ever leaves an individual’s device, and is not centralised in a cloud server, meaning it is not able to be repurposed for anything other than public health, they said. The scientists noted that several governments across the world have used contact tracing, as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

However, concerns have been raised about what this means for individual privacy rights, and what happens if the data is misused or used beyond the initial purpose. Michael Veale from UCL,

There are a lot of concerns about Bluetooth tracing being administered centrally by governments, particularly in countries that have weaker privacy laws and concern for human rights.

In India, Mr. Sinha said, the government is “definitely” going to link phone numbers and whatever data users of these apps have in their smartphones with the location. He said,

But as per reading the latest privacy policy of Aarogya Setu app, it uses that private information to only alert you in case you are traced to be in touch with somebody with the infection. The government is taking the responsibility that they are not going to use your private information for anything else.

Emphasising on the need for adopting contact tracing, he said, the last time the pandemic like this occurred was in 1918, when the Spanish flu outbreak happened in which India lost six per cent of its population. “And if you look at what 6 per cent will be today, you are talking like 10 crore people,” Mr. Sinha noted. ‘This is not an ordinary situation. This is extra-ordinary, happening once in a century and some extra-ordinary measures will need to be taken,” he added.

Also Read: Coronavirus Outbreak: Press Information Bureau Sets Up COVID-19 Fact Check Unit

World

26,71,08,375Cases
22,77,48,418Active
3,40,89,137Recovered
52,70,820Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 196 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 26,71,08,375 and 52,70,820 have died; 22,77,48,418 are active cases and 3,40,89,137 have recovered as on December 8, 2021 at 3:48 am.

India

3,46,48,383 6,822Cases
95,0143,402Active
3,40,79,612 10,004Recovered
4,73,757 220Deaths
In India, there are 3,46,48,383 confirmed cases including 4,73,757 deaths. The number of active cases is 95,014 and 3,40,79,612 have recovered as on December 7, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

66,39,296 518

10,528 298

64,87,593 811

1,41,175 5

Kerala

51,69,198 3,277

41,386 2,724

50,86,044 5,833

41,768 168

Karnataka

29,98,400 301

7,096 65

29,53,067 359

38,237 7

Tamil Nadu

27,31,235 719

8,013 28

26,86,683 737

36,539 10

Andhra Pradesh

20,73,852 122

2,030 92

20,57,369 213

14,453 1

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,485 10

137 3

16,87,437 7

22,911

West Bengal

16,19,722 465

7,590 49

15,92,579 505

19,553 9

Delhi

14,41,398 40

344 26

14,15,955 65

25,099 1

Odisha

10,50,354 105

2,010 144

10,39,921 248

8,423 1

Chhattisgarh

10,07,011 44

337 7

9,93,081 37

13,593

Rajasthan

9,54,920 29

221 0

9,45,743 28

8,956 1

Gujarat

8,27,745 38

350 1

8,17,300 37

10,095

Madhya Pradesh

7,93,258 17

137 4

7,82,593 13

10,528

Haryana

7,71,851 32

203 18

7,61,594 14

10,054

Bihar

7,26,244 7

28 2

7,14,126 5

12,090

Telangana

6,77,138 195

3,810 23

6,69,328 171

4,000 1

Assam

6,17,758 182

2,544 54

6,09,088 122

6,126 6

Punjab

6,03,509 21

333 28

5,86,565 46

16,611 3

Jharkhand

3,49,352 10

131 4

3,44,080 6

5,141

Uttarakhand

3,44,364 11

172 2

3,36,781 13

7,411

Jammu And Kashmir

3,37,915 108

1,661 45

3,31,771 151

4,483 2

Himachal Pradesh

2,27,630 112

776 21

2,23,001 90

3,853 1

Goa

1,79,209 35

413 1

1,75,409 34

3,387

Mizoram

1,36,784 330

3,120 19

1,33,156 310

508 1

Puducherry

1,29,093 8

250 30

1,26,968 38

1,875

Manipur

1,25,389 29

341 12

1,23,063 38

1,985 3

Tripura

84,866 8

93 3

83,948 5

825

Meghalaya

84,599 16

246 2

82,878 14

1,475

Chandigarh

65,500 12

62 4

64,618 8

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,294 1

35 1

54,979 2

280

Sikkim

32,374 5

214 1

31,755 6

405

Nagaland

32,140 4

120 3

31,321 1

699

Ladakh

21,723 9

270 25

21,238 34

215

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,683

0 0

10,679

4

Lakshadweep

10,404

10 0

10,343

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,690 2

3 1

7,558 3

129

Coronavirus Outbreak: Full CoverageTesting CentresFAQs
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Highlights From The 12-Hour Telethon

Leaving No One Behind

Mental Health

Environment

Join Us