Adoption of COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps: A Balance Between Privacy and Effectiveness

This article was originally published here

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Feb 19. doi: 10.2196/25726. Online ahead of print.


With the relative ubiquity of smartphones, contact tracing and exposure notification apps have been looked to as novel methods to help reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Many countries have created apps that lie across a spectrum, from privacy-first approaches to those that have very few privacy measures. The level of privacy incorporated into an app is largely based on the societal norms and values of a particular country. Digital health technologies can be highly effective and preserve privacy at the same time, but in the case of contact tracing and exposure notification apps, there is a trade-off between increased privacy measures and the effectiveness of the app. In this Viewpoint, examples from various countries are used to highlight how charactertistics of contract tracing and exposure notification apps contribute to the perceived levels of privacy awarded to citizens and, consequently, how this impacts an app’s effectiveness. We conclude that finding the right balance between privacy and effectivess, while critical, is challenging because it is highly context-specific.

PMID:33617459 | DOI:10.2196/25726