Utah pivots coronavirus contact tracing app strategy after only 200 users shared location data

When Utah tapped tech developer Twenty to create its $6 million COVID-19 contact tracing app this spring, the state health department later had to shift gears when only 200 people opted to share their location tracking data with the app, according to The New York Times.

After discovering only 200 users started sharing their location data with the app, dubbed Healthy Together, the Utah health department shut down its location tracking feature in July and pivoted consumer strategy. The app is now focused on functions such as relaying COVID-19 test results and digital symptom checks at schools and workplaces. As of Sept. 9, there had been 89,537 downloads of Healthy Together in Utah.

Three reasons why widespread location data sharing adoption failed:

1. Utah state officials told the NYT that many people were hesitant and had privacy concerns about sharing their location via the Healthy Together app.

2. The state also did not promote much information or explain how the app may be helpful to curb COVID-19 exposure.

3.  People do not necessarily trust governments or tech companies when it comes to contact tracing because it can be "embarrassing or creepy to tell a public health official who you might have exposed to a dangerous virus," according to the report.

The new Healthy Together app also includes resources for users such as information on which nearby restaurants offer dine-in meals and questionnaires to assess possible COVID-19 symptoms for people who work in some healthcare facilities and colleges.

 

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