Skidmore College computer scientist says smartphone apps can help contact tracing | WNYT.com

Skidmore College computer scientist says smartphone apps can help contact tracing

Skidmore College computer scientist says smartphone apps can help contact tracing

Mark Mulholland
Updated: April 30, 2020 05:56 PM
Created: April 30, 2020 05:37 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS-  An app being offered by researchers at MIT allows users to track where they've been and alerts them if they've had contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19.

"You download this app and do nothing, the app just works in the background. The only time you might use this is when you get a notification saying you may have been exposed to someone who has been infected," said Aarathi Prasad, Ph.D., a computer scientist at Skidmore College and an expert on contact tracing technology.

She's not endorsing a particular app, but says they're simple to download and use. A user won't even know it's there unless they've come in contact with someone known to be infected.

"But so far the adoption rates have been quite poor because of the lack of trust that people have."

Prasad says fears of Big Brother having too much information can be overcome by the government endorsing an open source app that makes all of its coding transparent and publicly available.

And she says people will be more likely to trust it if it comes directly from health organizations and not a for-profit company.

"That's the initial paranoia about 'Okay, I don't want Big Brother watching me all the time,' so that's where we need to emphasize, you already download apps, and here is a chance to download an app that's going to save lives," said Prasad. "As a community we need to decide on an app that we can all download so we can help each other."


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