A thorough analysis of how mobile phone apps and location data are being used worldwide for attempts at Covid-19 tracking

The linked report is a very thorough analysis of what is being done in countries throughout the world in regards to cell phone data for Covid-19 tracking, and looks at a number of issues, particularly with regards to privacy.

Source: Mobile Location Data and Covid-19: Q&A | Human Rights Watch

I see so many problems – technology – both software and RF issues – usage scenarios, laws, privacy issues, and practical issues such as unenforceable quarantines via phone, false positives and insufficient participation and so on – that phone-based tracking apps will not provide meaningful benefits during the current calendar year.

At some point in the future, after much real world experimentation and a better understanding of how they work or do not work – and once issues have been fixed (if possible) – phone based tracking apps might be useful. Perhaps for a future pandemic or epidemic.

Right now this is an early software-focused project in Alpha test – using entire populations for a health experiment – without necessarily having informed consent about high false positive rates requiring unnecessary 14-day quarantines. The initial roll out to real world users will be an Alpha test phase. The apps that are officially rolled out in production about June 2020 will be Beta test – where we learn how these work in real world scenarios.

Related: Utah’s contact tracing app is about 8 weeks late to start testing, amid numerous problems. Sounds like a far too typical software project: over promised, under delivered, late, missing features, and will probably need more cash to get it done.

And

Public health officials might be losing interest in contact tracing apps as

the pandemic response has become a bitter lesson in everything technology  can’t  do and an example of Silicon Valley’s legendary myopia. States like New York, California, and Massachusetts, and cities like Baltimore and San Francisco, have looked carefully at cutting-edge contact-tracing solutions and largely said, “No thanks,” or “Not now.”

….

But public health officers are typically MDs and PhDs who aren’t dazzled by cool-looking software, especially if the pitch comes from people without public health backgrounds. They’re uncomfortable deploying untested technology during a pandemic, when glitches can cost lives.

https://www.wired.com/story/health-officials-no-thanks-contact-tracing-tech/

That story describes how the technologies used in China and Korea will not fly in the United States. This story points out exactly what I have said – that people pointing to Asian countries as a success of contact tracing apps have no understanding of what they are talking about – those scenarios are so different as to have no relevancy to the U.S.

In the end, the only place contact tracing apps might have a role to play is inside certain kinds of work places where groups of workers may share common areas for an extended period of time. And that’s it.