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North Carolina' s cell phone app contact tracing SlowCOVIDNC is shown on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Policy Brief

Technical Difficulties of Contact Tracing

| February 2021

A digital contact tool must sufficiently minimize false positives and false negatives to ensure it does more good than harm. This is especially true as the number of U.S. states deploying digital contact tracing apps grows. In July, Google announced that 20 states and territories were “exploring” apps based on the Apple | Google ENS, which would represent approximately 45 percent of the U.S. population. New York and New Jersey’s recent app rollouts bring the total of state public health authorities currently using the Apple | Google ENS to eleven. In order to understand if the Apple | Google ENS is up for the challenge, we must understand the accuracy of the underlying Bluetooth technology. Long story short, Bluetooth technology simply cannot provide location information that is granular or consistent enough for digital contact tracing apps to reliably function.