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Are COVID 19 Tracking Apps Safe? What You Need to Know



As some states start to open back up we’re seeing COVID 19 Tracing apps and features appear on phones that can help track COVID 19 exposure and alert users to potential exposure.

There are a lot of questions about how this works if it is safe to share the information and how to control the COVID 19 contact tracing settings on your phone. We’re here to help you answer these questions and explain how the system works.

What is COVID-19 Contact Tracing?

What you need to know about COVID 19 contact tracing.

You may hear this feature talked about as COVID 19 tracking and the contact tracing name may be a bit scary. This option is keeping track of other people you come into contact with if you and the other person are both using the feature, but the tracking is done with a random ID shared by Bluetooth. The random ID is shared between phones and only stored for 14 days.

If you are diagnosed with COVID 19, you can choose to share this information using the app. This will then notify people who have a random ID from your phone that they were potentially exposed and it may include an exposure rating depending on the app. You can choose if you want to participate and you can choose if you want to share that you were diagnosed. If you do share this information it does not share who you are, just alerts the other users to their potential exposure.

Is This Tracking Your Location

Depending on the COVID 19 contact tracing app you use and how you set it up, the app can keep a local record of where you’ve been. The CARE19 app from North Dakota allows you to keep a record of where you’ve been. This data isn’t shared with the state, but now you have a record that you can share with your doctor or with officials if you are diagnosed. This can help alert people of potential exposures.

Simply installing iOS 13.5 or an Android update with COVID 19 contact tracing does not record your location or share it with any third parties.

COVID 19 Tracing Apps

To fully use COVID 19 contact tracing on the iPhone, you need to be on iOS 13.5 and you need a contact tracing app installed. Currently there are not a lot of options for these apps. North Dakota, Alabama, and South Carolina offer apps, but most states do not. There is no nationwide app for the U.S.

You can install one of these apps outside of the state, but you cannot use all the features. You can still log where you’ve been, but you cannot use the full set of features.

How to Control The COVID 19 Tracing Settings

How to change COVID-19 options on the iPhone.

You are in full control of the COVID 19 tracking and contact tracing settings on your iPhone. With iOS 13.5 the feature is off by default. You can control it in the settings under privacy. You need to install an app to be able to use the feature, so until your state has an app that works with it, you can’t do much.

Here is a full guide on how to control COVID-19 settings on the iPhone.

Android users will get an update from the Google Play Store that enables these options soon.

Watch Out for Fake COVID 19 Apps

One thing that you need to watch out for as you explore contact tracing and COVID 19 apps on both Google Play and the App Store. Apple and Google use processes to check apps, but occasionally we see nefarious apps slip through.

Look for communication from your state and verify that you are downloading the official apps if you plan to use any of the COVID 19 contact tracing apps on iPhone or Android.

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