Stefano Tessaro recently helped build privacy-focused digital contact tracing technologies through a collaboration with Microsoft Research.University of Washington Computer Science and Engineering Associate Professor Tessaro addressed concerns the app would be used for contract-tracing purposes.
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One option is contact tracing, a method for monitoring who has come in contact with whom, and, when appropriate, alerting a network of people if someone nearby has been diagnosed with the virus. Mobile phone apps offer opportunities to improve the accuracy of contact tracing but they come with privacy red flags — for example leaking a user’s location information or taking away people’s control over their own data.
According to a press release, “WA Notify” is a smartphone app that will alert Washington residents if they spent time near another Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19. Data models for three Washington counties — King, Pierce and Snohomish — in found that COVID-19 infections and deaths could be reduced if even a small percentage of people enabled WA Notify and that the more users there are the more effective it is. WA Notify will then alert other users that have been near them within the past 14 days.