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MIT experts build privacy-first coronavirus tracing app

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

The app uses information data to work out whether you’ve crossed paths with someone who’s tested positive for coronavirus. But it doesn’t intrude on your privacy.

Privacy experts from MIT have launched an application that tells you if you’ve crossed paths with a coronavirus patient—without sacrificing your privacy. 

Safepaths imports location data and timestamps from a user’s Google Account. Information is collected every five minutes. 

This lets the app work out whether someone has crossed paths with a diagnosed patient. If you’ve crossed paths with someone who’s tested positive for coronavirus, the app will notify you. The creators of the MIT app—which is still in pilot—claim that it is the first application designed for tracking the coronavirus that puts privacy first.

People who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus can choose to provide location trails to health officials, but the information on the location trail that’s broadcasted to others is blurred and redacted. For healthy users, such information never even leaves their phone.

The app isn’t the first to attempt this kind of thing; Alipay Health, an application that also tracked location data, was critical to China’s containment of the coronavirus. 

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