COVID-19: Extending automated tracing with manual tracing

Cover Image for COVID-19: Extending automated tracing with manual tracing
Florian Guitton
Florian Guitton

The city of San Francisco is training a team of 150 people by the end of April to perform manual contact tracing. It is enlightening to see that the most tech-savvy city in the world has concluded that 100% tech-driven contact tracing is not a silver bullet.

As analysed yesterday in BBC Newsnight, three obstacles stand in the way: first, 20% of the population does not possess a smartphone, especially the elderly. Second, it is challenging to measure contact distances, and therefore, more thorough verifications may be required. Third, despite the enormous effort to preserve privacy, there are unresolved concerns about mobile phone-based contact tracing.

On top of anonymous contact-tracing, a collaboration service, where users can securely disclose their identity to health professionals responsible for contact-tracing, would be useful. Health professionals have taken the Hippocratic oath: it is illegal for them to reveal a patient's identity.

Three weeks ago, we explained that we could allow collaboration based on encrypted data, at scale, without disclosing anything to anyone, not even us. We believe we can provide the extension to Bluetooth contact-tracing that will fill the gaps, reliably warning people of their risk without revealing the source of the risk.