The coronavirus contact tracing app won’t log your location, but it will reveal who you hang out with

Publication Title
The Conversation
Publication/Creation Date
April 15 2020
Roba Abbas (creator)
Katina Michael (creator)
University Of Wollongong (contributor)
Arizona State University (contributor)
Persuasive Intent

The Australian government has announced that they will be introducing the voluntary contact-tracing smartphone app TraceTogether (initially used in Singapore) to try to manage COVID-19 infections. The app does not use GPS location tracking data, but rather uses Bluetooth to determine which phones have been in close proximity to others.

This article explores some of the social and ethical implications of these emerging contact tracing technologies. They write, "In the end, it may simply come down to trust. Do Australians trust their data in the hands of the government? The answer might well be “no”, but do we have any other choice?

Or for that matter what about data in the hands of corporations? Time and time again, government and corporates have failed to conduct adequate impact assessments, have been in breach of their own laws, regulations, policies and principles, have systems at scale that have suffered from scope and function creep, and have used data retrospectively in ways that were never intended. But is this the time for technology in the public interest to proliferate through the adoption of emerging technologies?

No one fears “tech for good”. But we must not relax fundamental requirements of privacy, strategies for maintaining anonymity, the encryption of data, and preventing our information from landing in the wrong hands. We need to ask ourselves, can we do better and what provisions are in place to maintain our civil liberties while at the same time remaining secure and safe?"

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Date archived
April 20 2020
Last edited
July 5 2021
How to cite this entry
Roba Abbas, Katina Michael. (April 15 2020). "The coronavirus contact tracing app won’t log your location, but it will reveal who you hang out with". The Conversation. Academic Journalism Society. Fabric of Digital Life.