Pritzker administration evaluating use of COVID-19 tracking smartphone apps

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(The Center Square) – The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health says there’s more to come on the possibility of implementing a phone app to help track the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has some reservations, but he said the state is evaluating the options, despite it being nearly nine months of the pandemic.

Pritzker said Monday said the state is looking at such apps, but there are challenges.

“One of the challenges with them is there is the potential for breaches of people’s privacy, so we’re concerned about that,” Pritzker said.

There are other concerns.

“The adoption rate in other places of theses has been relatively lower,” Pritzker said. “I’ve seen adoption rates of 17 and 20 percent which is okay but it doesn’t get you what you’re really looking for in terms of sort of instant access of people who needs to be contact traced.”

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said to not rule out the usefulness of such technology.

“You could argue that having 20 percent of people who we can easily contact might be helpful,” Ezike said. “So we’re still exploring and it’s not off the table, so more to come on that.”

Pritzker noted the University of Illinois is implementing an app for their on-campus students in an effort to track the possible spread of COVID-19.

“It’s not to say there isn’t any use for it, but it’s something that I’ve been personally a little bit wary of,” Pritzker said.

Some argue such apps could be useful, but will raise red flags for people wary of the government monitoring their activities. That, and some people can’t afford or may choose to not use a smartphone.

A study reviewed by Nature.com cautioned against “an over-reliance on technology” and argued that contact tracing “should remain a human-fronted process.”

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