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Be Extra Wary of Contact Tracing Apps

As with almost all aspects of the pandemic, there’s not much truth we’re told. At this point, contact tracing apps have to get a lot of data about you and send it to other organizations. That is not a conspiratorial theory as collecting and sharing your private information is exactly what these apps are supposed to do. The issue is, however, that nobody knows what these companies are doing with that data.

Breaking Its Own Privacy Policy

For instance, Jumbo Privacy found a few days ago that North Dakota’s COVID-19 contact tracing app, called Care19, shares user data with Google, Foursquare, and other companies. The software company clearly showed in their analysis that these actions are in direct conflict with the app’s own initial privacy policy, which claimed the application would not share data without the user’s consent. Now, Care19 developer ProudCrowd updated its privacy statement after the findings were published, but we’ll hear of many more such stories going forward.

ProudCrowd provided a statement to Fast Company to justify itself:

“The Care19 application user interface clearly calls out the usage of Foursquare on our ‘Nearby Places’ screen, per the terms of our Foursquare agreement. However, our privacy policy does not currently explicitly mention this usage. We will be working with our state partners to be more explicit in our privacy policy. It is important to note that our agreement with Foursquare does not allow them to collect Care19 data or use it in any form, beyond simply determining nearby businesses and returning that to us.”

‘Do Not Use This App’ – Jumbo Privacy

While that sounds decent on paper, in fact, so much that Jumbo Privacy might be forced to revise its ‘don’t use this app’ recommendation, this whole issue is a great reminder that you only depend on trust for how your location data and all the private information about you could be used by these apps.

North Dakota’s contact-tracing app, Care19

While some might be citing ‘the common good’ as justification for all the rights being taken by constant monitoring, the risk of sharing personal data – in this case, involuntarily – is not worth it. These apps might be created to carry out a task that might keep you somewhat safe, but that doesn’t mean they should meddle with your device and privacy. It is absolutely possible that those developing them will muck everything up, and that has lots of privacy implications.

You might as well not install them in the first place if you want to prevent any chance of your data being collected, sold, or leaked. However, if you already installed such an app, you could use a tracker-blocking app like the Jumbo Pro or revoke the application’s permissions.

Whatever your personal position on installing these types of apps, we urge you to give any contact-tracing app you’re thinking of installing a bit of thought before you go ahead with it. Do your research and see if it actually does its job, and it doesn’t collect your information to share or sell it. Or just don’t install an app at all. The analog way of contact tracing works well enough, and you don’t need to share your location with companies with advertising business deals to benefit from it.


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