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Behind the Global Efforts to Make a Privacy-first Coronavirus Tracking App

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People walking at a distance from each other.

Engineers believe smartphone technology could be the key to anonymously tracking the spread of the coronavirus.

Credit: Bernhard Lang/Getty Images

In a Google Doc that now stretches beyond 20 pages, software engineers and health experts are working out what they hope can be a way for the world to soon return to something resembling normal life.

"What's the minimum duration of contact that we should consider important?" an engineer asked.

It's one of many crucial questions from engineers who believe smartphone technology could be the key to creating a way to anonymously track the spread of the coronavirus — and by doing so help save lives and get people back to their jobs and social lives.

"There are people who have been waiting their entire lives for a problem that can be solved by exactly the right algorithm," said Peter Eckersley, an artificial intelligence researcher who convened an informal group of like-minded experts called "And those people are springing to work."

Versions of coronavirus tracking apps already exist in China, Singapore, Israel and elsewhere, but the lack of privacy protections worries many technologists in the U.S. and Europe, who are looking to build their own.


From NBC News
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