The term “contact tracing” has recently grown in public prominence. Articles, news reports, and Google searches surrounding the phrase have sky-rocketed since the start of the pandemic. As Susan Landau explains in her recently published book People Count: Contact-Tracing Apps and Public Health, “Ending a plague requires more than medication; we need to stop spread.” And for that, contact tracing—test patients, trace their contacts, and have them isolate—is key. But how do you do so with a disease that spreads as quickly as Covid-19 does, with people contagious before they are even aware they are ill?
The pervasiveness of smart phones has led to the deployment of mobile applications designed to aid in the contact-tracing process. In her book, Landau explains how the technologies work, how they can be designed to protect privacy, and what the complex interplay between technology, social needs, and medicine looks like. Landau highlights the need for technical solutions to be created with the guidance of social scientists and public health experts.
To get a copy of Landau’s book, check out the MIT Press’s website. To learn about Landau’s work at the intersection of technology and society with regards to the SPLICE project, check out the rest of this website.