Worldwide smartphone COVID-19 apps research

19 MAY 2020

Worldwide smartphone COVID-19 apps research

A Charles Sturt University research project will examine mobile phone ‘contact tracing’ apps worldwide to strengthen the fight against COVID-19 and similar future pandemics.

  • Charles Sturt research aims to help nations to choose the most culturally appropriate smartphone COVID-19 tracing app
  • Because privacy may vary from culture to culture, an understanding of cultural resistance to certain aspects of an application would be useful
  • Project aims to devise a privacy-preserving framework to enable the secure collection of contact tracing data without needless exposure of personal information

The Charles Sturt University project, ‘Designing privacy-preserving and secure contact tracing mobile app to combat COVID-19’, received a grant from the Charles Sturt COVID-19 research grants announced in April.

Senior Lecturer in computer science Dr Ashad Kabir (pictured) in the Charles Sturt School of Computing and Mathematics leads the research team.

“The team will analyse and evaluate the privacy, security and utility of all smartphone apps around the world for COVID-19 monitoring, and assess the trade-off between privacy, security and utility of the apps,” Dr Kabir said.

“As a result, our findings can help nations to choose the best available app, or even design a new app suitable for their culture, to maximise the utility in relation to their populations’ privacy perceptions.”

Dr Kabir noted that ‘contact tracing’ is considered an effective control strategy against the spread of COVID-19, and can play an important role in the clinical management of patients.

“Due to widespread use of mobile devices, contact tracing mobile apps are being considered for implementing ‘spread control’ in the general population,” he said.

“Several countries, including Australia, are introducing a contact tracing mobile app that can generate alerts to individuals who have had any contact with an infected person in the last few days.

“However, such application ideas are being criticised, and there is huge resistance to their adoption due to related privacy, security and ethical concerns.

“For example, the notion of privacy may vary from culture to culture, so an understanding of cultural resistance to certain aspects of an application would be helpful to health authorities, governments, and consumers.”

Dr Kabir explained this project is designed to investigate such concerns by taking relevant case studies (that is, contact tracing mobile apps) around the world and performing comprehensive evaluation of their features and impacts on their users.

“The project aims to devise a secure, privacy-preserving and ethical contact tracing framework and an app design for contact tracing that can become a guideline for similar technology-based solutions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Kabir said.

“Outcomes of this project will resolve ongoing concerns and enable the secure collection of contact tracing data without exposure of needless personal information.

“The proposed framework and mobile application design will not only strengthen the fight against ongoing COVID-19 challenges, but also against similar disasters in a post-COVID world.”

The research project team is led by Chief Investigator Dr Ashad Kabir, with co-investigators Dr Anwaar Ul-Haq, Professor Oliver Burmeister, Associate Professor Lihong Zheng, Associate Professor Zahid Islam, and Dr Faizur Rahman (Google).


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Ashad Kabir contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

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