Alabama is one of only three states that have said they are planning to use a new Google and Apple developed smartphone application for SARS-CoV-2 contact tracing, according to a June 10 article in Businessinsider.com.
Alabama, South Carolina and North Dakota are the only states that have saluted the new Google/Apple software, designed to work with Bluetooth on smartphones. Spokespersons for 17 states told Business Insider they were not planning to create an app or use smartphone-based contact tracing at all. Nineteen states said they were considering using contact-tracing apps but had not made a decision.
“The remaining 11 states did not clarify any plans to use contact-tracing apps or did not respond to Business Insider’s questions,” the magazine reported.
Business Alabama reported plans of the Alabama Department of Health in a June 1 story.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health continues to work with UAB and the University of Alabama concerning the Google/Apple app for proximity tracking,” Dr. Karen Landers, with the ADPH, told Business Alabama. “The app reports via notifications to a smart phone, through the private interface, when a person has been exposed to another person who has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The person testing positive must have the app and persons in close contact must also have the app.”
Privacy concerns have been raised about the use of the proposed app, one of the reasons Business Insider cited for the reluctance of some states to use it.
On that issue of privacy, ADPH’s Landers told Business Alabama, “All information is anonymous and only gives dates of potential exposure. The app is partnered with Google and Apple to create the highest level of privacy and protection. The most significant utilization initially will be within the college student population, which will likely be used by UAB students this fall, and may expand to other students as well. Further, the app may become useful in a wider group of people in the future as ADPH gathers more information.”
Apple and Google have assured users that privacy protection is built into the application, to prevent commercial sharing of data. But federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies have backdoor access to Apple and Google software without the active sharing of information, developed by the National Security Agency under the PRISM project.
Business Insider wonders if the Google/Apple contact tracing app is still viable, since it depends on widespread adoption by state governments and users.
“Many states that are not using the tech from Apple and Google are instead relying on armies of human contact tracers who interview Covid-19 patients,” said Business Insider. “New York is hiring up to 17,000 contact tracers, and California is hiring up to 20,000; neither state has committed to using a contact-tracing smartphone app.,
Business Insider said Google declined to comment and Apple didn’t respond to the magazine’s inquiries.