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Are Coronavirus Tracking Apps Ethical?

4/15/2020, Andriana Gregovic


Recently, Apple and Google have announced that they are working together to develop an app that will alert you when you come in contact with the coronavirus. Using Bluetooth, the app would add people who have consented to using the app to a catalog of phones. Then, “If a person in the catalog tests positive, a list of encrypted phones that came near that person’s phone will be alerted.” Many people are praising this as a way to help combat the virus and allow people to go back to work without fearing if they’ve been exposed. However, many others are justifiably concerned with how this app will affect their privacy.

Apple and Google assure users that privacy is a primary focus for them when developing the app. The companies promise that the app won’t be used to trace a person’s location or even identify people; its sole purpose is to alert those who’ve potentially been exposed to the virus. “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders,” Apple said in a press release. Governments are encouraging the development of such apps and are even looking into the use of location tracking services for their own purposes, such as to see where large numbers of people are gathering. Despite the positives of such an app and the reassurances of Apple and Google, people remain wary of such a privacy violation, and the ethics of such an advancement in tracking technology are up for debate.

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