Google-Apple Contact Tracing Plan Meets With Skepticism

Many Americans appear skeptical of the new contact-tracing system under development by Google and Apple, according to a new survey conducted by The Washington Post and University of Maryland.

Only 50% of smartphone owners who were surveyed said they would either “definitely” or “probably” use the new system, which relies on Bluetooth technology to determine when smartphone users have come into physical proximity with people who later tested positive for COVID-19.

The contact-tracing function under development by Google and Apple will only operate if the smartphone users have also downloaded certain public health apps.

Survey respondents also expressed doubt that tech companies could keep data anonymous.

Only 43% of smartphone owners said they trusted that Google, Apple and other technology companies would preserve the anonymity of people who tested positive for COVID-19.

By contrast, 57% of smartphone users trusted public health agencies to keep the information anonymous, while 56% trusted universities to do so.

Despite privacy concerns, most smartphone owners (59%) said that if diagnosed with COVID-19, they would be comfortable using the Google-Apple app to anonymously inform anyone who had been in close proximity to them.

For the survey, researchers questioned 1,008 adults nationwide between April 21 and 26.

News of the survey comes the same day that Google and Apple released beta versions of tools that can be used by public health agencies to develop the apps.

The companies have said the system is voluntary, and doesn't collect data from users -- although users who test positive reportedly will be able to upload information to the cloud.

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