28 Countries Have a COVID App. Why Not the US?

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

As of July 2020, 28 countries have released official COVID-19 tracing apps. Australia’s government released an app in April, and Singapore released a similar app in March. A South Korean app came out even earlier than that, in February. But, in the United States, the progress toward a COVID-19 tracing app is moving at a slow pace.

Meanwhile, COVID tracing apps have been implemented in nations worldwide, to varying degrees of success. Many publications, including the Harvard Business Review, credit these tracking apps for helping to flatten the curve in Asia in particular. If that’s true, and we could significantly decrease the spread of a global pandemic that has claimed over half a million lives, what is going on in the US?

It appears the issue is how each states’ public health authority is dealing with this. Apple and Google are in the process of building a COVID-19 tracing app into iPhone and Android operating systems but, according to 9to5 Mac, only four states — Alabama, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Virginia — are interested in using their Exposure Notifications API. Other states appear to be in a wait-and-see mode.

Timeline of COVID-Tracing Apps Internationally

The reasoning seems to come down to the basic function of these tracing apps. Apps like those used in Singapore and Australia require near-complete adoption of the app by the national population. By running continually in the background on your smartphone, the apps use Bluetooth to monitor all other phones (and phone users) you come into contact with. If you then test positive for COVID-19, the app can then theoretically trace all the smartphone users you may have infected in the last 14 days.

In order to be successful, almost everyone in a given country would need to download the app and allow it to trace their movements, store their data, and — if needed — hand that information over to health authorities, should they be at risk of infection. In countries like the United States, where individual freedoms and privacy concerns are highly important, the success of an app like this is still up in the air.

The surprisingly controversial face mask mandates are a perfect example of a distinctly American phenomenon: despite studies that show the universal implementation of face masks would seriously decrease or even eliminate the possibility of a second and third “wave” of COVID-19, a large portion of the American public feels that personal freedom is more important than stopping the spread of the deadly virus. For instance, there are concerns among advocacy groups, such as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about how this type of software plays into human rights and privacy protections. Furthermore, it’s unclear how these apps might be regulated, and whether states could eventually use them as surveillance tools.

With that in mind, there are certain to be many hurdles to clear before US citizens see an adoption of a COVID tracing app that everyone can live with.

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AppGrooves uses a proprietary algorithm to analyze data for over 7 million mobile apps and games to deliver the latest breaking app news and content.

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AppGrooves

AppGrooves

AppGrooves uses a proprietary algorithm to analyze data for over 7 million mobile apps and games to deliver the latest breaking app news and content.

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