The Technology That Could Free America From Quarantine
Several countries are currently using a tactic called tracing, otherwise known as tracking or contact tracing, to identify all of the people someone infected with COVID-19 may have come into contact with while they were contagious. Although testing can help to combat the outbreak of the virus by letting people know when they may have come into contact with someone who has the virus, it is a costly and tedious process that involves thousands of hours of interviews. Recently, Massachusetts announced that it plans to hire 1,000 people to do these sorts of interviews.
However, there is another method of tracing that is controversial: using smartphones to log activity through GPS tracking and Bluetooth signals. Cellphone tracing might help countries to halt the spread of the virus by contacting potentially infected individuals immediately, however, it also poses a privacy threat. If someone tests positive for the virus, health officials would then analyze that person’s cellphone activity and compare it with data emitted by other phones, observing GPS overlaps or Bluetooth hits. The officials would then urge the individuals in the overlaps and hits to self-isolate and get tested.