ADPH continues working to develop contact tracing app with patient privacy at forefront

Coronavirus

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Contact tracing is quickly becoming a familiar phrase for many. For the past few months officials, officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health have assigned investigators to retrace the steps of people who have tested positive.

Thursday, Governor Kay Ivey announced that there could soon be a new way.

“The Department of Public Health inked a deal with two of the largest technology names in the world, Apple and Google to use their contact tracing app to track those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 using Bluetooth signals,” she explained.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is still in the development stage of the app. Spokesperson Dr. Karen Landers said one if its largest concerns is the ability to protect patient information and privacy on personal devices.

Most smartphones already collect behavioral data, like where you go, what you buy, and what sites you visit. Though there are concerns about personal information being in the hands of the government even as it relates to public health.

Apple recently published documents stating that only public health authorities will have access to the apps, and users will have the option of toggling the technology on and off.

Apple said the software will not collect location, share the identities of users through the cellular notifications, or share each person an infected individual has come in contact with, with the Department of Public Health.

“The person who has a phone that’s been around that phone, would receive a text,” Landers explained. “The text information would provide that there had been an exposure to COVID and that person would be given information to call and speak to whomever is coordinating.”

Landers said right now, the goal is to market to larger, urban areas and possibly college campuses.

ADPH has a board of people brainstorming the app’s needs. The agency hopes to have additional information, specific to Alabama’s contact tracing app in the week ahead.

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