Contact tracing is one of the best ways to slow the spread of a disease such as COVID-19, but how to trace who has been near who has brought up fears about privacy and tracking, and not just tracing. Schools have been trying to trace which students have been near other students in order to contain outbreaks, and digital contact tracing offers the best and quickest way to do this.
Proximity of Devices vs. Tracking Locations
This is essential: Find tech that does not track the users' actual locations. Many of these devices for contact tracing look only for each other. In other words, if the devices can communicate, they are close enough to warrant concern if someone in the proximity tests positive for COVID. But that's all the devices should look for: each other, without creating a map of movements.
Wearable Tech Avoids Isolating Those Without Smartphones
Digital contact tracing can take a couple of forms. One is a smartphone app that requires the phones have Bluetooth on, and the other is a Bluetooth-enabled card that people wear around their necks. If you can, go for wearable cards. First, these eliminate the need to have a smartphone – and, guaranteed, not everyone at your school has a smartphone. In some cases, it's because of cost, but sometimes people just prefer to use an old flip phone. Second, if you have students and staff download an app, you could find more resistance from families who don't want to do what they might see as giving you access to their kids' phones. Third, some people don't want to keep Bluetooth activated on their phones. A separate wearable card would be much preferred in these instances.
Look for Geo-Fencing
It may be best to limit the tracing to school property only. If you try to trace the students as they leave the school and go home, you risk being accused of invading privacy and tracking their location, even if you're using cards that track only which other cards are nearby. Look for cards that offer geo-fencing, in which a virtual "fence" is created, past which the cards won't work. If you can reassure parents that the cards will work only on school property, you may face less resistance from reluctant families.
Contact tracing doesn't have to invade privacy. By keeping the device separate from any personal devices and by limiting the device's data use to just knowing which cards were nearby, you can help put parental fears to rest.
For more information about a digital contact tracing device for schools, contact a professional.