Blockchain technology is known for helping facilitate the use of cryptocurrency. It is a particularly useful technology since it allows multiple sources to input data and have access to that data without being able to tamper with the data. As a result, if the data entered into the blockchain technology is accurate then it be trusted by all users that have access to it. Additionally, no one source completely controls the record-keeping technology.
International Business Machines Corp has launched a blockchain initiative where healthcare providers are connected to suppliers of medical equipment, according to the Wall Street Journal. The project is extremely useful because those included in the network of suppliers are nontraditional companies, such as fashion companies now producing masks.
Without the project, called Rapid Supplier Connect, healthcare providers can spend four to six weeks identifying nontraditional suppliers and vetting the production process in order to determine whether the products can be trusted. Instead, Rapid Supplier Connect vets those who want to join the supplier network.
Ernst and Young are also utilizing blockchain technology to develop a record of individuals who have recovered from the coronavirus and developed the antibodies needed for immunity from future infection, according to the Wall Street Journal. The technology would allow for employers and airports to identify which individuals can safely reopen the economy or travel. This is one of many efforts in which technology is being leveraged to strengthen contact tracing efforts, the most effective strategy for curbing the spread of the coronavirus until there is a vaccine.
Singapore’s government rolled out a phone-based app, called TraceTogether, which alerts users if they have been in contact or close proximity of an individual who has tested positive for Covid-19, according to Business Insider. The app relies on Bluetooth technology and is in coordination with other efforts from the Singaporean government in connecting those at risk of infection to testing.
Increased efforts at contact tracing have also opened up questions regarding data privacy. For example, the Chinese government has relied on surveillance technology to trace the movements of individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Science Magazine. Weaker protection of an individual’s privacy leads to stronger contact tracing efforts, and each government has made their own choice in terms of striking the balance between the two.
“We don’t live in a culture of public trust when it comes to data,” said David Leslie, an ethicist at the Alan Turing Institute. “We live in this age that has been called the age of surveillance capitalism, where … our data is abused and exploited.”
The Israeli government allowed the national police force to use mobile-phone location data to identify individuals violating quarantine and enforce legal restrictions on movement, according to the BBC. However, the Israeli parliament blocked further use of the technology and data.