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Digital Contact Tracing: A Primer

Digital Contact Tracing: A Primer

How Data Can Support Contact Tracing, Explained by BKC's Jonathan Zittrain

Contact tracing is crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19 – and technology can enhance traditional efforts. In part one of a new video series, Professor Jonathan Zittrain provides a concise primer on digital contact tracing – specifically, contact tracing work that concerns the identification and notification of exposed people. He explains both the challenges and how several different technological solutions – particularly, the Bluetooth Low Energy exposure notification service released by Apple and Google (GAEN) – might help, and introduces some of the key considerations pertinent to smartphone-based solutions with respect to efficacy, privacy, public adoption, and public trust.

Jonathan Zittrain is a Co-Chair of the Berkman Klein Center’s Digital Pandemic Response Working Group, a group of experts advising decision makers on ethical, legal, and policy questions related to the development and implementation of digital tools and data to combat the pandemic. He is also a professor of law, computer science, and policy at Harvard University and Co-Founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

Useful Resources:

  1. Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Digital Contact Tracing: Perspectives on approaches to COVID-19, (June 25, 2020)
  2. Urs Gasser et al., Digital tools against COVID-19: taxonomy, ethical challenges, and navigation aid, The Lancet Digital Health, (June 29, 2020)
  3. Maria Barsallo Lynch and Lauren Zabierek, Considerations for Digital Contact Tracing Tools for COVID-19 Mitigation: Recommendations for Stakeholders and Policymakers, (June 2020)
  4. Digital Contact Tracing for Pandemic Response: Ethics and Governance Guidance (Jeffrey Kahn ed. and Johns Hopkins Project on Ethics and Governance of Digital Contact Tracing Technologies ed. 2020) 
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Digital Contact Tracing, (May 26. 2020)
  6. Draft Documentation on Google-Apple Exposure Notification System
  7. Nancy Ayer Fairbank, Christopher S. Murray, Amy Couture, Jennifer Kline, and Martin Lazzaro, There’s an App for That: Digital Contact Tracing and Its Role in Mitigating a Second Wave, (May 2020)
  8. Jonathan Zittrain, “Is Digital Contact Tracing Over Before It Began?,” (June 25, 2020)

This work is part of the BKC Policy Practice: Digital Pandemic Response

Special thanks to former and current BKC staff John Bowers, Adam Nagy, Lydia Rosenberg, and Hilary Ross and to the team at Tank Design.

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