US Lags in Smartphone Tracking Covid Contact: Should This Even be Allowed?

By Zoe May

The United States is known for being a technology giant in the global market, yet the use of smartphones to track the spread of Covid 19 is virtually nonexistent in comparison to the rest of the world. Why is this technology not being used in the United States? This may be because the United States does not have a national health care program, so decisions like this are done on the local level and often not prioritized. 

Smartphones already have the capability of GPS tracking, including “how close you’ve been to other people, for how long and keep a detailed log of everyone you’ve been around for the last 14 days” (Beaubien). Countries, such as Germany, Ireland, and Singapore, have implemented the use of an app that monitors potential exposures and have had nationwide success with identifying Covid 19 cases early and slowing the pandemic. In the United States, Apple and Google have been working together to build a system that monitors this data “while keeping cell phone users’ identities anonymous” (Beaubien). One version of an app available in the state of Virginia uses a person’s bluetooth signal to swap with another person’s and send a notification if they are near a possible exposure. For many citizens, it was a no brainer to download the app in order to be safe. However, it is not required to download the app so many people are choosing not to because of privacy concerns as stated by Beaubien.

But there have been greater privacy concerns about the GPS-based apps and far fewer downloads. The Google/Apple system is only available to government health departments. Each state must choose to opt in and then build or buy its own app.

Although this is an incredible technological feat, it is a cause for concern for many American’s security. Another reason the United States has not implemented the use of this technology is because there is no national health care system, so the use of services, like this app, are decided on a local level rather than the federal level. The use of a Covid 19 tracking app also requires every person to have a smartphone, which much of the older, and most susceptible population, does not have. 

From a human resource perspective, a small or large company can be considered its own local governing body over its employees. A company has “the general goal of providing a safe, secure, and healthy workplace” (Mathis/Jackson) through operating managers and human resources working together. The human resources department may highly encourage the operating managers to require downloading this app in order to ensure the health, safety, and security of the employer and employees. Requiring downloading this app may be considered health promotion, the “supportive approach to facilitating and encouraging healthy actions and lifestyles among employees” (Mathis/Jackson). Although health promotion was originally intended to encourage things like not smoking and eating healthy, the post-pandemic healthy lifestyle consists of not getting Covid 19. Employers may bring up the same privacy concerns as citizens of Virgina, so the company may offer a subsidized plan to encourage downloading the app with expanded health care benefits. 

Smartphones have the capability of tracking, recording, and possibly preventing the exposure to Covid 19. Although controversial because of privacy concerns, an app that tracks and notifies its users of potential exposure can be implemented on the company, local government, and statewide levels. 


Beaubien, Jason. “A Tech Powerhouse, U.S. Lags In Using Smartphones For Contact Tracing.” NPR, NPR, 23 Sept. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/09/23/913921507/a-tech-powerhouse-u-s-lags-in-using-smartphones-for-contact-tracing. 

“15.” Human Resource Management, by Robert L. Mathis and John Harold. Jackson, 11th ed., Thomson Learning Asia, 2007.

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