COVID Nearby app delivers virus tracking and privacy

COVID Nearby app

Another way to track and view cases of COVID-19 in your local area has arrived free on the App Store. COVID Nearby can be launched on the iPhone or iPad to log coronavirus symptoms and test results. Privacy is guaranteed thanks to differential privacy, a method which keeps users anonymous and reports secure. The project has been developed at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey with support from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

New Jersey was one of the hardest hit states early in the pandemic, with cases skyrocketing in counties adjacent to New York. COVID Nearby aims to help track the spread of COVID-19 in local communities across the country, with data reported via the app and displaying confirmed cases by county. More information on the project can be found at the COVID Nearby website.

The survey

Users of COVID Nearby are asked a series of questions to identify if they have been tested for COVID-19, what symptoms they might be experiencing, and how many people are in their household. Once the answers are submitted, the data is added to the project to track the virus. Check-ins can be made as often as daily to record changes in status. Reporting no symptoms can be just as important as symptoms and test results.

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Privacy options

The default privacy setting incorporates a strong mathematical guarantee known as differential privacy. Data on the interactive map is privacy protected, with no individual information included. Users can also choose a stricter privacy setting, or offer more useful data to the project by selecting a looser privacy setting. The default level of privacy is right in the middle.

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COVID-19 maps

Maps can be toggled to show confirmed cases within a search area, or real-time symptom tracking based on reported data. Crowdsourcing the COVID-19 data from even a few thousand people can help track the spread of the virus. As more people participate in symptom tracking, better data can be delivered to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus in local communities.
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COVID Nearby is free on the App Store and requires iOS 9.0 or later.