Blurb from the author: I haven't gone to restaurants, shopping centers, or grocery stores since I started the MCO, so I haven't participated in contact tracking yet. According to government regulations, various solutions have been implemented everywhere, but problems arise over time.
As innovative as the idea of contact tracking is, it has its own disadvantages. This also applies to the different types of solutions.
In this article, we take a look at the emerging problems identified by using various contact tracking solutions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Human tracer (manual contact tracking)
1. Exposure risk
Usually carried out personally by the health authorities, this means that they should be in the same physical space with a potentially infected person.
Photo credit: Reuters
Despite the PPE they would wear and the hygiene standards that they would have to adhere to, they would still be at high risk of infection.
2nd A large part of the population cannot be covered
In terms of information accuracy, manual contact tracking may be one of the best ways to hold an individual accountable for providing truthful information.
However, the method is slow and relies heavily on workers (and the necessary safety equipment), so infections cannot be tracked at the same rate at which they spread.
3rd Useful only for contacts that the individual can identify
With this method, the infected person must be able to remember where they visited and who they met. In most cases, however, we can only call back contacts that we actually recognize.
Strangers could be excluded from the equation, especially if there was no contact tracking register on the premises visited by the infected person.
Traditional log books
4th Practical tools for the potential spread of infections
Despite the many digital contact tracking solutions available that are already free, some companies still choose to register guests using logbooks.
This is a problem because several strangers have physical contact with the pen / paper and book, which leads to a higher risk of possible infection than with contactless solutions such as scanning QR codes.
5. Personal information is easily faked
Unlike digital contact tracking solutions, which use OTPs (one-time passwords) and other verification methods to validate phone numbers, logbooks cannot make guests equally accountable.
High-ranking minister and minister of defense Ismail Sabri Yaakob has already had to comment on the subject and urge Malaysians not to falsify their information when registering using QR codes. What prevents people from doing the same with a log and getting away with it?
6. Information can be stolen
If the logbook is opened in an unattended situation, someone can easily take a picture of the personal data of people who are to be abused. In a more extreme situation, the whole book could simply be torn away.
While there are no official reports of such incidents, this is another risk to consider when companies choose to use the traditional logbook register, especially if they leave it unattended.
Digital contact tracking solutions
The main types of solutions that fall into this category would be:
- QR code register,
- Bluetooth tracking apps,
- GPS-based location tracking apps.
7. False positives can be reported
Since Bluetooth can normally penetrate walls if you and an infected person are in the same building but are separated by a wall (and would never come into direct contact with each other), you could still get an alarm. This can also happen if you practice social distancing but remain open. It all depends on how strong the Bluetooth signal is in different places.
For some, this can cause unnecessary worry, for others, it can be just slightly annoying to be falsely alerted all the time.
(In my personal opinion, I don't see this as a big problem as it is always better to be on the safe side, but apparently enough people have complained that this is a repeatedly reported problem.)
8th. Lack of widespread acceptance
When it comes to contact tracking apps, at least 60% of the population must download them for the solution to work effectively.
However, the acceptance rate was rather low. Singapore's own TraceTogether has currently only managed to get 20-25% of its population (approximately 1.5 million inhabitants) to download.
Although the solution may work, there is insufficient data to ensure that the majority of users can actually be tracked and protected.
9. Cybersecurity and privacy concerns
An important hurdle to persuading people to use digital contact tracking solutions was uncertainty about who was allowed to access their data and what they could be used for.
Bluetooth tracing shows less detailed information about a person's location compared to a GPS-based location tracking app, but still leaves devices open to cyberattacks, especially when mistakes are made by the developer.
These and other concerns lead to slow adoption of these solutions, making contact tracking less effective.
10th People without smartphones are left out
According to Statista, 18.9 million Malaysians owned a smartphone in 2019, from our estimated population of 29.4 million Malaysians in 2019, as reported by DSOM.
This means that around 36% of Malaysians may not yet have a smartphone today, and this doesn't even take into account what percentage of our 3.3 million non-citizens don't have a smartphone.
In 2017, an estimated 75% of Malaysia's population lived in urban areas. It can be assumed that the percentage has increased in the meantime, and that would mean that a significant number of people in cities and towns do not yet have a smartphone.
When on the go, they cannot enter the many spaces where digital contact tracking solutions are used.
You also can't download tracing apps that use Bluetooth or GPS-based location tracking. As a result, they are no longer comprehensible and endanger them and others (if they are carriers).
General contact tracking issues
11. People can refuse to be contacted
People who leave the wrong information are a problem, but those who leave their information involuntarily can also cause a problem if they need to be contacted.
You must not take calls or read messages from the authorities to inform them that they need to be tested.
As much as we would like to think that very few of us would do so, even a small number of people who do so could jeopardize past efforts and success in contact tracking.
12. Personal information can be used for marketing purposes
As an incentive for corporate acceptance, digital contact tracking solutions may offer the opportunity to use the data for marketing purposes.
(Picture on the far left) You have the option to log in and log out later. / Photo credit: MulahRewards.com
In some cases, users can decline to do so, but ultimately consumers cannot be 100% sure that their decision will be respected. We can only trust the integrity of the system and the companies.
13. Different solutions lead to fragmented information
Various QR code solutions, Bluetooth tracking apps and GPS-based location tracking apps are currently used by different companies and business premises, and logbook registers are not even taken into account.
Introducing contact tracking efforts is undoubtedly faster with different providers in different locations. One problem, however, is that the information is fragmented.
If comprehensive contact tracking is to be carried out effectively, this could be an obstacle, as it would take longer to extract information from all the different registers than if it were kept in a central system (which, of course, involves its own risk). .
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There is no “perfect” solution on the market yet and it is unlikely to be developed overnight. However, I believe technology will continue to improve from here and we will learn how to adapt to it.
Regarding the compromise between privacy and public health, I think we should take responsibility if we go out while the pandemic is still going on.
To increase acceptance, providers of digital solutions should provide users with more specific information. We also need more discussion about the impact and impact of these technologies on the public and individuals, and frameworks need to be in place to adequately protect data and user privacy.
Using the right message to commercialize the use of these solutions could also go a long way. Instead of telling people why they should care about protecting strangers, bring them closer to your home: take part in contact tracking to protect your families and friends.
Bottom line: We all have a role to play in ending this pandemic, whether by staying at home or being a responsible person when going out. If I left my house, I would practice assuming that everyone I see is an asymptomatic carrier and act accordingly.
- More articles about COVID-19 can be found here.
Selected image source: Straits Times