How to get Contact Tracing right

With this page I want to start a series of short pages in English language to explain my thoughts about contact tracing during Corona—what went right and what went wrong.

The first part is a bit Austria-centric, as I discuss the mistakes of the health authorities in my home country. The second part, though based on the Austrian `Stop-Corona-App’, applies to all European countries since they all tried the same electronic approach and failed.

This page will serve as an overview and index. I will try to complete the entries as time permits. The structure is planned as follows:

I. Seven disadvantages of using manual contact tracing exclusively

  1. Trying to use internal documentation systems for contact tracing
  2. Manual labor does not scale properly in the most critical period
  3. No notification of indirect contacts
  4. No notification of contacts in anonymous situations
  5. Restricting contact tracing to regular work hours
  6. Laborious time-consuming process pestering many people
  7. Submission of all citizens to the same process without rewards

II. Seven reasons why the Corona App failed

  1. Destroying trust by coercion
  2. Denying users control over app behaviour
  3. Non-deterministic operation principle and unreliable technology
  4. Benefits from use scale quadratic with adoption rate
  5. Choice of an inappropriate physical model (Bluetooth distance)
  6. No capabilities to track indirect contacts
  7. Again requesting blind submission of citizens without any insight

III. Suggested alternative approach

  1. Avoiding mistakes
    (in crises, there is no guaranteed success but guaranteed failure)
  2. Register contacts as person-to-location, not as person-to-person
  3. Do not perform any action without user initiation
  4. Show the user information as benefits
  5. Make participation voluntary and anonymous
  6. Separate contact tracing from binding legal consequences
  7. Do not tend to the fringe groups, provide a tool helpful to the middle
  8. Provide benefits to people participating
  9. Build trust slowly