The Rock Weekly

Surveillance in sickness and in health

Welcome to the era of syndromic surveillance. After largely forgoing contact tracing early on, CDC Director Robert Redfield pinpointed the public health tool as a key focus going forward—and highlighted technology’s role in augmenting the human taskforce needed to do the job. Right on cue, Apple and Google announced the development of a COVID-19 tracing API to alert individuals if they’ve been exposed to someone with the disease.

Such an approach is promising, with a few potential challenges: Bluetooth is spotty, widespread adoption is needed to be effective, distrust runs deep within marginalized communities, and, of course, privacy is a concern. As digital health companies have reportedly been tapped to support a national coronavirus surveillance system, it seems we’re left to decide—will we relinquish our privacy in the name of security?


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