What Is Contact Tracing?

What is contact tracing? How is it used in a pandemic, and how could it impact your privacy? Attorney Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on the radio with PYX106 discussing the issue. Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

Presenter: With Quinn and Cantara.

Cantara: It’s 1800LAW1010…1800law1010.com. Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti everybody.

Paul: Good morning.

Quinn: Good morning, sir. Good morning.

Cantara: So we’re here to talk contact tracing. And before we talk about it, you want to explain to me what exactly that is?

Paul: Yeah. So a lot of misconceptions around that. Contact tracing has been around a really long time and used in other viruses that we’ve had, but people don’t like it, they don’t like the sound of it. In essence, we’ve got folks who’ve got COVID-19 who tend not to be the folks who are confirmed cases that are spreading the disease, it tends to be people who are asymptomatic. So you get confirmed with the disease, they then say, “Okay, Mr. Quinn, where have you been? Who have you talked to?”

Quinn: Probably Cantara is a better example.

Paul: They look at your cell phone. Okay, that probably wasn’t…

Quinn: Because he’s gonna infect a whole village over there without realizing it.

Cantara: So they’re gonna…

Paul: And they’ll contact everybody you came in contact with.

Cantara: They’re gonna contact them.

Paul: Yeah. So that’s the plan, is that if they can break what they call the web transmission, okay? When you take infected people, and their contacts are isolated, that’s what stops the…they believe this stops the spreading of this disease, this virus, not just waiting until people confirm this.

Quinn: And the manpower is what Bloomberg is talking about…

Cantara: That’s right, Bloomberg.

Quinn: …and software and stuff.

Cantara: But as far as privacy, like I’m gonna tell you, you know, I’m gonna have to tell you that that was…that that woman, where I met my mistress and where I bought my drugs, I’m gonna have to tell someone that?

Quinn: You don’t have to call her mistress, right? You can just say she was a business associate.

Cantara: Isn’t that the argument, like I’m gonna have to give up some of my privacy here?

Paul: Yeah, the ACLU says that this is an invasion of privacy. But constitutionally, this has been tested and they’re saying no, we can do this in times of pandemic. The one issue in Rhode Island that really sparked a lot of debate, they talked about going through people’s, you know, mobile data meaning tracking. Okay, so we’re gonna get your mobile phone and see where you’ve been all day because you may even may not remember or you may not want to come clean with your activity that day. So that’s really what’s stirring up the pot.

Quinn: Google’s got everything, you guys, including down to video.

Cantara: They even know, like they know in the past 10 days America has moved and come in…

Quinn: It’s crazy.

Cantara: …come in more contact just from cell phone service.

Paul: Yeah.

Quinn: It’s crazy. Yeah. So will there be recourse or will we just have to tap this out?

Cantara: I mean, I think I’m okay with it. I think I’m okay with it.

Quinn: I mean, yeah. The alternative is you’re risking yours or someone else’s life.

Paul: Yeah. When you look at it, and I think it’s gonna be just the folks, certain [inaudible 00:02:40] people are not gonna cooperate, right, you’re gonna call them up and they’re just gonna hang up. They’re not gonna want to talk just because they’re not gonna believe the phone call. It’s gonna feel like maybe it’s a scam. They’re not gonna be aware what contact tracing is. But sure, it really is a way that if I knew that I was around someone who was infected, and I could just lay low for a while. I don’t have to lock down for 14… If all of the sudden I got a little fever that night, as opposed to just blowing it off, well just tired, you know, I’ll stay in.

Quinn: Paul, why can’t we just take the last four digits of everybody’s social security number and that will be the identifier for the tracing, and then everybody else’s last four digits will be the tracing and that way the names and specifics aren’t out there. I wonder if that’s possible.

Paul: Yeah. I mean those… The more anonymity there is the better because people are getting reluctant to kind of give names, you know. Nobody wants to be the one who provides that information because the phone call’s coming to the people you were just with. And there’s a sense to, you know, you had, one, you blew them in, so to speak, even though that’s kind of nonsensical, but two, that you’re infected, so now they’ll kind of work…now everyone who just…the word’s out, you know, you’ve got this infection, and although important to let know, people still think there’s a stigma around identifying themselves with that.

Cantara: Right. We talked to a guy on a cruise who he had, his wife didn’t, but she still lost her job and was kind of like virus shamed. Just real quickly, Paul, you think we’ll come to a point where people will be actually be fined for not wearing a mask?

Paul: I sure hope not. I don’t think so. Other states, we’re the closest, you know, our state is the one that has that mandate. The other states don’t have it. You know, in Vermont, for example, they just gonna… They say about 70% of people are wearing them. And you know, there’s probably some discussion, we see people without it, but it’s not mandatory. A fine for not wearing it, boy, I don’t think so. I think it’s just gonna be hopefully common sense will prevail.

Quinn: We didn’t have the signs either for quite some time till we started seeing bodies by the thousands, like, you know, the highway signs. So I mean, I’m seeing this like, you know, this evolve into the rest part of the country and hopefully, they’ll react like we did out here.

Cantara: Oh, good stuff this morning, Paul. We always appreciate the time.

Quinn: Thanks, Paul.

Paul: Absolutely. Talk soon.

Quinn: All right, Paul Harding, from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti 1800LAW1010, 1800law1010.com.