RALEIGH, NC – Six months ago, Apple and Google introduced a new smartphone tool designed to notify people who may have been exposed to the Corona virus without disclosing any personal information. But the Americans were not so interested.
Less than half of the US states and territories – a total of 18 – have made such technology widely available. According to data analysis by the Associated Press, most Americans in such locations do not implement the tool.
Data from 16 states, Guam and the District of Colombia show that 8.1 million people used the technology at the end of November – one in 14 of the 110 million people living in those regions.
Such applications may improve one of the most difficult tasks in controlling the infection: they can be tested for contact with individuals infected with the corona virus and isolated if necessary.
In practice, widespread COVID-19 misinformation, the complexity of the technology, the overstaffing required to quickly confirm a diagnosis and the general lack of awareness have posed obstacles.
Evan Metaxatos, a lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina, was delighted to learn about his state’s monitoring application in November. He downloaded it and followed his parents and wife.
But they are still foreigners in the state where the app was launched in September. Of the approximately 10.5 million government residents, only 482,003 have installed it by the end of November.
“It doesn’t work well until everyone uses it, but it’s nothing,” Metacatos said.
Apple and Google have jointly developed the primary technology behind such applications, which use Bluetooth wireless signals to anonymously detect when both phones are spending time nearby. If an utility user tests positive for the virus, it may trigger a notification to others who have spent time near them, without revealing that person’s phone names, locations, or any other identifying information.
In states like Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington and Washington, D.C., iPhone users do not have to download an app. Apple prompts users via popups to activate the notification system by adjusting their phone settings.
In these states, adoption rates are particularly high. But even in the most successful state of Connecticut, only one-fifth of all residents have opted for this surveillance.
Virginia’s COVIDWISE application was launched on August 5, and went live. Since then, less than a dozen residents have downloaded it, although the government estimates that nearly 20% of Virgins between the ages of 18 and 65 have done so via smartphone. Delaware’s usage downloads make up about 7% of the state’s population. Other states have much lower rates.
New York launched its app on October 1st. It recently surpassed 1 million downloads – about 5% of the population. New Jersey and Pennsylvania saw a 4% download rate.
Adoption is even lower in Wyoming, North Dakota, Michigan, Nevada and Alabama, where users make up only 1% to 3% of their state’s population. Free applications can be found here Apple’s App Store And this Google Games Shop.
Nearly a quarter of Ireland’s population uses its COVID-19 application, according to Irish app developer Nearform. It is difficult to get such traction in the four US states that have developed similar applications: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Germany and Britain have the same infiltration rates as Ireland. In France, less than 4% of the population use the official COVID application, which excludes the Apple-Google approach to highly intrusive data collection.
Security experts praise the Apple-Google system for protecting users’ anonymity. But U.S. users say discrimination, privacy concerns, and a stigma surrounding COVID-19 keep participation low. The lack of government efforts to raise awareness has not helped.
Both have no technical and bureaucratic issues.
Lee McFarland, a credit officer from Grand Forks, North Dakota, said he was interested in downloading his state’s Care 19 alarm app, but could not press the “Notify Others” button after the virus came in late October.
“If you test positive, a public health officer will pick up your code and verify it,” a message from McFarland’s app said. “This ensures that notifications can only be sent by verified positive COVID-19 persons.”
McFarland said he forgot to tell the health worker who had installed the app on his phone. He failed to track the employee to get the required code and then deleted the application.
Even when that process is active, many North Dakotans do not press the button to notify others. Tim Brookins, chief executive of utility developer Proud Crowd, said 91 of North Dakota’s 14,000 active users have activated the “Notify Others” button. Of the 91 users, only 29 pressed the button, which triggered 50 notifications.
Still, many users claim to have the app.
David Weisseter, a general contractor from Lenoir, North Carolina, said, “Everyone who does something helps.”
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