- As employers plan return-to-work strategies, most professionals are against the implementation of workplace contact tracing, according to a survey released June 1 by Fishbowl, a workplace communications network. Contact tracing is an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19 by tracking an employees' contact with other employees in the workplace.
- In Fishbowl's survey of more than 17,000 professionals, 75% responded that they would not allow their employers to trace their activity. Professionals in the tech industry, in particular, are against it; just 19% said they would allow it. However, 40% of respondents in the Human Resources field — the highest percentage recorded by industry — said they would allow their company to conduct contact tracing while at work, according to Fishbowl.
- Wisconsin had the highest percentage of professionals surveyed who would allow their company to trace their contact with other employees, with 39.79%, among states with more than 100 responses, according to Fishbowl. Florida had the lowest percentage of employees (19.55%) willing to participate. "While we can't know the reason for each person answering the way they did, it's assumed that privacy is one of the main reasons," the company said.
Contact tracing is "a core disease control measure employed by local and state health department personnel for decades," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in its guidance, naming it a "key strategy" to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But as companies are creating tools to support its use, some experts argued it could be a vehicle for "abuse and disinformation."
Kronos, workforce management and human capital management cloud provider, released an automated reporting tool for contact tracing in April. The tool analyzes labor records and time and attendance data collected by Kronos solutions. To compile the report, no health-related information is required or used, according to Kronos. Employers enter workers' ID number, a location of interest and date range, and then the tool generates a report of workers potentially affected by COVID-19.
Google and Apple announced April 10 the creation of Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform. It "would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities," the companies said in a statement.
However, Ashkan Soltani, a technologist specializing in privacy, Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, and Ryan Calo, a University of Washington law professor, wrote that tech companies' product is not feasible, in an opinion piece published April 27 by the Brookings Institute.
"We have serious doubts that voluntary, anonymous contact tracing through smartphone apps — as Apple, Google, and faculty at a number of academic institutions all propose — can free Americans of the terrible choice between staying home or risking exposure," they wrote. "We worry that contact-tracing apps will serve as vehicles for abuse and disinformation, while providing a false sense of security to justify reopening local and national economies well before it is safe to do so."