A contemporary Italian author is recently quoted as saying the pandemics of world history force us to think differently.
An example of this new thinking is a new smartphone application to alert New Yorkers who choose to download it when they’ve been in close proximity to someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19 as several downstate virus hot spots continue to increase.
COVID Alert NY, which notifies users of potential coronavirus exposure, went live on the Apple App and Google Play stores Thursday to strengthen the state’s contact-tracing efforts. The app, free to mobile users in the state 18 and older, alerts a person if he or she came within 6 feet of a person who recently tested positive for COVID-19 for 10 minutes or more.
So the app will tell you if you’re in contact with a COVID-positive person. Allow us to interject two words here: Then what?
The app does not collect users’ names or private information and is completely anonymous, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. The app does not track location or use GPS location data and does not store personal information.
Well and good for the user, but what about the person the user comes into contact with?
“It doesn’t give names or any privacy information; it’s voluntary,” Cuomo said, referencing the new app. “I think it will not only bring contact tracing to a new level, but I think it’s going to give people comfort.”
The governor is big on exalting contact tracing and giving comfort, but he’s a little shaky on what the user is supposed to do after making contact.
There are a few health and medical condition issues to be resolved here as well, such as the right to keep personal health a private matter.
Advanced technology comes with equal parts benefits and risks. The benefit is stronger and more efficient contact tracing. The risk, however, can be expressed in three words: Invasion of privacy.