Contact tracing has proven to be a vital tool in the fight against coronavirus, but its effectiveness has been hamstrung at times by concerns over privacy. Now, a new anonymous app called “I Checked In” offers a convenient system for contact tracing while alleviating those drawbacks.
The app is a simple way for customers and small business owners to keep track of who is coming and going and at what times in case of an outbreak.
Businesses get a pin number that customers can enter in the app when they check in. Guests remain anonymous, but in the event of an outbreak, the business can inform “I Checked In” and the app will notify anyone who was potentially exposed.
The creator of the app, entrepreneur Avi Lugassy, is the owner of a small restaurant called Soupa Cafe Ltd. that was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
He said he developed the app to find a better way of contact tracing after noticing that people have an aversion to being tracked, the risk of which has been heightened by the pandemic.
For instance, North Dakota was one of the first states to roll out its contact-tracing app, “Care-19,” in April. Users were told that location data would be kept private, but an analysis of the app by Jumbo, a consumer privacy service, found that location data was being shared with Foursquare, a third-party app that provides information to advertisers.
“Sharing what is supposed to be an anonymous code along with an Advertising Identifier (referred to as IDFA) has serious privacy risks,” Jumbo wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union warned in April, just weeks after the coronavirus prompted nationwide lockdowns to curb the pandemic's spread, about privacy concerns related to tracking exposure.
“In the last few weeks we have seen many proposals for technology-assisted ‘contact tracing,’” ACLU wrote. “While some of these systems may offer public health benefits, they may also cause significant risks to privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”