📱 Tech lawyers will play a key role in building apps for coronavirus contact tracing
Even during a global pandemic, the need for good legal work is shining through: Tech lawyers are helping build apps and tracking devices that allow federal and local governments to do contact tracing for people at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Contact tracing is vital to the next step of containing Covid-19: When countries begin reopening, they will depend on the ability to track down people who have been in contact with anyone who tests positive for coronavirus. They will need to ensure that those contacts self-quarantine until they know they don’t test positive for the virus.
The best kind of contact tracing needs tech: GPS data will be vital to tracing the steps of someone who has coronavirus and everyone they have encountered. In the best situation for public health, an epidemiologist will be able to look up the locations (offices, restaurants, stores etc.) of a recently-tested patient and then find out who else had been in the same location at the same time and ask them to go into quarantine.
But legal regulations will be required: Lawyers will need to craft these tracking apps according to federal laws, which will vary from country to country.
The keys to crafting a legal app in Europe
Europe is ahead of America in laying out legal guidelines for contact tracing apps. According to TechCrunch, the apps must be voluntary, approved by the national health authority, encrypted and dismantled as soon as they are no longer needed.
Apple and Google have been working on contact tracing apps. The United States has not set any guidelines, but the ACLU and numerous academics have expressed support for the companies’ ability to mitigate privacy risks in the early development of the apps.
Difficult as it may be to think privacy-minded America will use these apps, the circumstances will likely require them. And we’ll have a strong incentive to opt in. According to an Oxford study, about 60 percent to 75 percent of the population would need a contact tracing app for it to be effective.