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Why COVID Exposure Notifications don’t work on phones in Missouri

  

As the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world on its head, companies and individuals alike scrambled to introduce new technology — and Apple and Google were no different. The companies teamed up to launch an Exposure Notification contact tracing feature. 

However, as iPhone or Android users may have already noticed, that feature is unavailable in Missouri due to privacy concerns. 

“The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services weighed the pros and cons of various technology platforms associated with tracking the possible transmission of COVID from person to person,” Lisa Cox, a spokesperson for Missouri’s health department, said. “Early efforts at these technologies were found to be exceptionally invasive to the personal privacy of citizens and were not adopted for use by the state.” 

“These systems have continued to evolve and adopt more appropriate protections by including opt-in features, anonymous randomizations, and other key features,” she continued. “DHSS has continued to monitor these systems and does not intend to implement or endorse one option over others. Local communities or institutions interested in using these systems should ensure they adequately protect and secure any information collected on any Missouri citizens and should include an opt-in feature to be selected by each participant.” 

The Exposure Notifications are housed under the Settings app on the iPhone. It says the phone uses Bluetooth to find other nearby Android or iOS phones with the exposure alerts on and keeps a 14-day log. Users who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 can report it as well as anonymously notify others who could have been in close contact. Then, if someone could have been exposed, the individual would be notified by the public health authority. 

The notifications could be utilized through a public health authority’s own app, according to Apple. Users can also turn on location services which may aid other health departments with contact tracing if the individual is traveling. 

The feature also instructs users that the phone is “not collecting or sharing exposure notification data with anyone.” Users are also able to turn on alerts should Exposure Notifications become available in the region.