The evolving ecosystem of COVID-19 contact tracing applications

by   Benjamin Levy, et al.

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, there has been increased interest in the use of digital contact tracing as a means of stopping chains of viral transmission, provoking alarm from privacy advocates. Concerning the ethics of this technology, recent studies have predominantly focused on (1) the formation of guidelines for ethical contact tracing, (2) the analysis of specific implementations, or (3) the review of a select number of contact tracing applications and their relevant privacy or ethical implications. In this study, we provide a comprehensive survey of the evolving ecosystem of COVID-19 tracing applications, examining 152 contact tracing applications and assessing the extent to which they comply with existing guidelines for ethical contact tracing. The assessed criteria cover areas including data collection and storage, transparency and consent, and whether the implementation is open source. We find that although many apps released early in the pandemic fell short of best practices, apps released more recently, following the publication of the Apple/Google exposure notification protocol, have tended to be more closely aligned with ethical contact tracing principles. This dataset will be publicly available and may be updated as the pandemic continues.


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