As the world gets ready to “reopen,” there are more and more plans that include the idea of contact tracing. In practice, your phone always knows where it is, and it is relatively easy (from a technology perspective) to track your latitude and longitude (though altitude is harder for apartment dwellers and high-rise office workers). Depending upon which radio signals are available at any given moment (GPS, Wi-Fi, cellular networks, etc.), your location can be accurately calculated inside a radius of a few feet. Depending upon a number of factors, it can also be calculated inside a radius of a few dozen yards. Which, as you can imagine, could suggest that are you at (or inside) a location that you are simply passing by.

Stop on the street to have a conversation with Aunt Edna (who is speaking to you from the 2nd story window of her apartment building), and there is a very good chance that an exposure-notification app would think you were speaking face-to-face.

This raises a few questions. Are contact tracing apps too “big brother,” or are they necessary? Should there be a legislated time limit on the use of these apps? Would you trust the government with data about every single place you’ve been? Since the apps are (at best) only as good as the combination of user diligence and honest reporting, is this just a waste of resources?


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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit


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