Alarm bells ring for patient data and privacy in the covid-19 goldrushBMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1925 (Published 18 May 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1925
All rapid responses
South Korea’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been widely acclaimed  for its effective measures (i.e. contact tracing) and testing without large-scale confinement or travel restrictions. Many countries, including Spain, are trying to catch up with testing , although the accuracy and availability of the tests leave much to be desired.
Most countries have taking steps towards developing apps for identifying symptoms which have had a great reception  but not so much for contact tracing apps. Most are relying on manual tracing to know who has had close contact with an infected person and determine who should be tested or asked to self-isolate . And while this has shown promising results according to a preprint on the effectiveness of manual tracing vs apps tracing, they rely heavily on how many people are hired to do the manual tracing and how many people download the app, respectively . Some people have recently called for the need to start contact tracing  since deescalating phases are starting to become more frequent in several countries after large-scale confinement, along with massive testing. The problem is that, although people can get tested, they could still be in contact with someone that has the virus as soon as leaving the testing site. Therefore, testing is not the only solution.
The stringent patient data privacy regulations have previously hindered contact tracing. Governments seem to be concerned about privacy issues, complaints of surveillance from their citizens and whether to centralize or decentralize their data (with changes in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation being expected soon) , although they have developed tools like Bluetooth interaction based on mobile data for testing the spread of the virus .
It’s paradoxical that under the biggest threat in the last decade for public health, we still have reservations about our privacy when we sell it without much care in our everyday lives to different corporations such as Facebook (with a long history of privacy issues)  or the most recently popular video conference app to work from home, Zoom, which has security vulnerabilities that could enable malware that sells access to your webcam to third parties  just to name a few. We would rather give our data to corporations that profit from our data than the Government.
Taking into consideration that a vaccine is not going to be ready in under a year and that movement restrictions are being lifted, massive testing as the only solution to control the spread of the virus doesn’t seem feasible. Therefore, countries should consider using mobile positioning data for contact tracing because it can be used in the current regulation with special measures to curtail misuse and unauthorized access.
A second wave is expected in most countries, the measures and the willingness to compromise will dictate how we respond. Let’s learn from experience and from other countries that have shown how to respond effectively.
 South Korea’s COVID-19 success story, UN News, 1 May 2020 (https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063112)
 Rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) tests performed in the most impacted countries worldwide, 18 May, 2020 (per million population)
 Menni C, Valdes AM, Freidin MB, et al. Real-time tracking of self-reported symptoms to predict potential COVID-19 [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 11]. Nat Med. 2020;10.1038/s41591-020-0916-2. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-0916-2
 BMJ 2020;369:m1859
 Kucharski AJ, Klepac P, Conlan A, Kissler SM, Tang M, Fry H, et al. Effectiveness of isolation, testing, contact tracing and physical distancing on reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in different settings. medRxiv. 2020 Apr 29;2020.04.23.20077024. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.23.20077024
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 Ekong I, Chukwu E, Chukwu M. COVID-19 mobile positioning surveillance and contact tracing, and patient privacy (Preprint). JMIR mHealth uHealth. 2020 Apr 5;8(4). https://dx.doi.org/10.2196%2F19139
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Competing interests: No competing interests