There is an ongoing debate wherein public health officials are contemplating how governments should approach contact tracing. One side favours going the digital route with the assistance of major tech outfits such as Google and Apple. Meanwhile, the others point out the advantages if it is done the conventional way. While each has its pros and cons, these neglect the fact that there might be issues regarding privacy as well. This will possibly turn into controversy against the European Union's stance on digital confidentiality.

Aside from the United States, Europe has already recorded close to 140,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus outbreak, reports ABC News. Therefore, the EU hopes to improve its chances by properly tracking new infections and preventing new ones. Global healthcare systems are already strained from the steady influx of COVID-19 patients. Hospitals are reporting supply shortages and are already operating beyond capacity.

Contact tracing appears to be the best course of action to slow down infections until a vaccine or cure is developed. However, this is a tough subject to tackle as data collection from health apps are considered by some as a breach of privacy. Given the laws in place to protect confidential information such as location, it will be difficult to justify how the program will look up GPS data which is then collected for analysis.

The system will use Bluetooth connectivity to determine if users were in contact with individuals who are potentially affected. According to developers, it will identify high-risk people based on the data pulled from support health apps on their handsets. Evidently, this is alarming for those in the EU after restrictions have been implemented by authorities to prevent companies from sourcing details without consent.

Health Care workers in Madrid, Spain
Health care workers in Madrid wearing protective suits examine a man who has fallen ill at home -- Spain is one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus crisis Photo: AFP / OSCAR DEL POZO

Currently, there are two methods being considered: centralised or decentralised. The former is being used by the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT). This appears to be what governments want to aid in decision-making processes to control COVID-19 as data is readily accessible on a central server. Meanwhile, the latter is probably a better option for those concerned about privacy as everything is stored locally on their devices.