Monday, March 23, 2020

From Tracing to Preemption

There are a number of application (app) assisted contact-tracing projects currently being developed in response to Covid-19. Their objective is to notify persons who may have been infected as quickly as possible so they can be tested or take other precautionary measures. However, with a proper information security architecture, it is possible to notify persons that they may be coming in contact with an infectious individual. This allows the person to preempt the contact or take precautions, such as wearing a mask.

This publication introduced the information security architecture needed for Virus Radar:
Stodolsky, D. S. (1997). Automation of Contagion Vigilance. Methods of Information in Medicine, 36(3), 220-232.

This study showed acceptability of the approach and how it could be extended to location associated risks (contaminated surfaces, etc.):

Stodolsky, D. S. & Zaharia, C. N. (2009). Acceptance of Virus Radar. The European Journal of ePractice, 8, 77-93.

There are two things that are needed for Virus Radar to function. First, the infectious agent must be tracked. In the simplest case, when two phones come within a couple meters of each other they exchange information in order to record a risky contact. However, a risky contact can be preempted, if a person’s phone can’t present a digital health certificate. Failure to present a certificate can occur for many reasons, so the risk of stigmatization is avoided.

Second, if a person can’t present a health certificate, they can avoid potential ostracism by getting tested or resolving malfunction of the Virus Radar application or of their phone. New health certificates are delivered to all users on a daily basis, so information about the extent of infection is always current. This information can be updated rapidly, because those suspected of being newly infected report for testing upon not receiving a fresh certificate.

An advantage of this approach is that it uses peer pressure to accelerate adoption of the app. If comprehensive coverage can be achieved, then it becomes possible to rapidly unroll the infection chains and prevent all likely infected persons from contact with the at-risk population. Both contact tracing and motivating of persons to be tested results from peer influence. Professionals can focus upon testing of persons who come for assistance. 

It appears that TraceTogether can be extended to include a “MeetSecure” capability.