Tech Companies Partner With Government To Aid In Contact Tracing


Tuesday, July 28th 2020, 9:02 pm
By: Bonnie Campo


OKLAHOMA CITY -

Cellphones can now help health officials with COVID-19 contact tracing.

Tech giants Apple and Google have partnered with the federal government to create an inside the operation system.

Users are required to opt-in for use. The setting is automatically turned off until the owner enables the device.

But that's only one part of the process.

A user also needs an app that would run the contact tracing program through state data.

News 9 checked Governor Stitt’s office and the Oklahoma State Health Department. So far, the app has not been created. 

Medical experts said it could take a load off existing state departments who are working tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19.

"There are so many cases being confirmed daily. Honestly, our state and local health departments cannot keep up,” OU Medicine’s Chief COVID-19 Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said. "If you have a state-level app, and turned that on, and have the Bluetooth turned on, if I were walking by you, it will register that I walked by you. It would exchange our private, random codes with each other. Then, if someone down the road tested positive for COVID-19, it would get into the state app and it would notify the people who had phone contact (with) me."

Attorney General Mike Hunter has issued a warning for Oklahomans that have downloaded certain contact tracing applications to their cellphones or computers.

Hunter said that the technology needs to be well-vetted. If not, it could compromise their personal identifiable information, including sensitive health information.

Thirty-eight other state attorney generals have also sent letters to the companies asking to extra caution.

“While many of these apps are well intentioned, Oklahomans need to be aware that some are sharing personal information and private health information,” Hunter said. “Although these practices go against both Apple and Google’s guidelines, there are reports of third parties flying under the radar and accessing this information from people before the rogue applications are removed by the companies. That is why my colleagues from across the country and I are asking both company CEOs to partner with states and implement our recommended actions in order to better protect citizens.”