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Privacy Concerns Over COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps Largely Misguided, Malvern Cybersecurity Expert Says

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Phone makers are beginning to install COVID-19 contact tracing apps on phones, but is your privacy and personal information at risk? Eyewitness News went looking for answers.

The word in each post varies a bit, but the sentiment is the same. They are social media posts being shared at a rapid pace, where a user is informing their friends that if they download a COVID-19 contact tracing app, then they must cut digital ties.

Here's a quote from one, "You do not have consent to use my identity or my phone number in connection with your app to identify, track, trace or locate my family/friends."

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Over Zoom, Eyewitness News asked Kevin Hyde, president and co-founder of Layer 8 Security, a Malvern-based cybersecurity company, if it's a valid concern.

"No, it's not to a certain extent," Hyde said.

Hyde says the posts are largely misguided.

"If my name is in your phone, that does not make it so that they can track me down based upon the fact that my name was in your phone," Hyde said. "That's not a thing, that's not a thing. You can't do that."

But COVID-19 contact tracing apps are gaining steam. There's one called Healthy Together and there's Pennsylvania's choice called Sara Alert.

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They are used to monitor those diagnosed with COVID-19 and to stop the spread. Using them is voluntary. To help these apps run, Google and Apple provided a software update.

"You definitely want to keep your phone and your apps updated, but you need to go into the apps and select the privacy settings that are right for you," Hyde said.


Whether the app is related to contact tracing, grocery shopping or gaming, Hyde says you can always opt out of sharing data.

As for GPS tracking, users can turn their location settings off and those who don't need not worry about their friends. The GPS location of people in their contact list is not accessible.

Cybersecurity experts also add sharing a social media post demanding privacy does nothing to secure it.

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