Jim Fisher

As I wrote a couple of months ago, Alabama is one of the few states who utilized technology developed by Google and Apple allow users to anonymously self-report Rona infections and notify others who may have been in close contact with them. The app, GuideSafe™, is now available in the app stores.

There is an incredible amount of misinformation about this application. People who barely know how to turn on a smartphone have pronounced themselves cybersecurity experts warning others that this app can be used by the evil government to track your whereabouts for . . . reasons. There is absolutely no truth to that. In fact, the app is specifically designed to protect your anonymity. But I was curious of how this thing actually works so I went straight to the source and contacted Sue Feldman, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Health Professions and UAB School of Medicine. Dr. Feldman (among others) led the development of the GuideSafe™ app. I took the information provided by Dr. Feldman and translated it to the following walkthrough of what happens from app download to sick bed. So hold my hand as we catch the Rona together.

You, being the smart person you are, downloaded the GuideSafe™ app from your app store and agreed to the terms of the blah blah blah. One week later, you attend a large party (what were you even thinking?) and hung out with another person, let’s call her “Karen,” for 15 minutes. Karen wasn’t feeling well but attended the party anyway, because, well, she’s a Karen. Key the ominous music at this point.

A few days later, you start to feel bad and went to the lab, filled out the paperwork, including your phone number, got a Q-tip shoved into the back of your brain, and confirmed that you have cooties. You then dutifully self-reported your positive test via the GuideSafe™ app. The app asks for your phone number. That number has to match the phone number you gave the lab. No match? No report. This keeps people from “pranking” the system and reporting positives just for fun.

After you successfully report your result, everyone who has the app and has also spent at least 15 minutes within a few feet of you during the last 14 days will receive a notification that they’ve been exposed, including your goofy friend Karen. Those people will only know the date of exposure--no location, no time, just a date. The evil government has no access to any of this information at any point. It will be a bit late for Karen, but your other victims will know to isolate themselves until they can get a test.

Dr. Feldman doesn’t know yet how many people will need to use this app before it becomes useful, but asserts that wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing, and using this app stands to reduce transmission of this dumb thing by up to 80%. I hope you will be a part of the solution.

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com