'A really expensive WebMD': Utah's $6M contact tracing app falls short of expectations

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Several Utah policymakers are criticizing the state's decision to spend $6 million on an app meant for COVID-19 contact tracing that has since disabled its location tracking feature, according to Deseret News.

In May, state officials signed a $6 million contract with developer Twenty to deploy its Healthy Together app, which was meant to act as a contact tracer and symptom checker. Since then, the app's location services feature has been disabled due to Utahns' concerns over data privacy.

"What we found is that most people, upward of 90 percent, who downloaded the app were willing to enable location services," health department spokesperson Tom Hudachko told Deseret News in a July 13 email. "However, when it came time for people who had tested positive to share their information with a contact tracer, only about 50 percent of them were willing to do so."

Some Utah politicians have been vocal about their disapproval of the contract, highlighting the fact that well-known Utah businessman Khosrow Semnani and his son Taymour Semnani have extended an offer to the state to deploy its contact tracing app for free. Their app, called Distancing, uses Bluetooth to notify users when they come within 6 feet of each other.

"We've vastly overpaid for something that isn't working," Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, told Deseret News. "And now we have a really expensive symptom checker. A really expensive WebMD."


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