Most would share medical records for COVID-19

Technology already being used to track virus
  • Deborah Condon

The vast majority of Irish people would be willing to share their personal data and medical records if it helped to solve a global pandemic, such as COVID-19 (coronavirus), a new survey has found.

The findings shows that 87% would be willing to share their personal information, and among younger adults and those aged over 55, this figure rises to 93%.

According to Jim Friars, CEO of the Irish Computer Society, which commissioned the research, as the pandemic spreads further, "it has become clear that personal data will play an essential role in understanding the virus and ultimately containing it".

"Our survey indicates that the vast majority of people are happy for medical researchers, practitioners, and public health officials to collect and analyse their personal data in a bid to better track the virus, learn more about how it spreads, and predict its movements," he commented.

He pointed out that one of the most common tools currently being employed around the world has been the gathering of location data using smartphones and data from mobile networks.

"Our phones track our steps and many people have wearable devices that can collect statistics on our vitals and lifestyle. Potentially, this data could now be used to track and accelerate a cure for COVID-19.

"With this data available, intelligent machine learning algorithms could identify trends that human experts can miss, then raise insights and recommendations for professionals to review and validate. The process could ultimately speed up detection in the case of COVID-19," Mr Friars explained.

He noted that some governments worldwide are already using technology to track the coronavirus outbreak as they try to stem its spread.

"China, Singapore and South Korea are using a combination of location data, video camera footage and credit card information to track COVID-19 in their countries. There are also proposals to introduce track and trace technology here by way of an opt-in mobile phone app that will allow people to be notified if they were in close proximity to confirmed cases," he said.

However, Mr Friars acknowledged that all of this "raises important questions on data ownership access and privacy".

Meanwhile the survey of 1,000 people nationwide also found that 83% of people think that technology will change the way we work after the COVID-19 crisis, while 78% do not trust social media when it comes to spreading awareness about the virus.


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