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Crime-Tracking App Citizen Now Alerts Users to Infection Risk

  • SafePass is tech industry’s latest contact-tracing effort
  • Download rates and privacy have limited digital tracing so far
Crime App Draws 1 Million New Yorkers and Some Controversy
Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, contact tracing was considered the best hope for getting people back to offices and schools safely without a vaccine. The tech industry was optimistic that apps would provide a faster, more effective alternative to the usual painstaking human process of calling and interviewing the networks of infected people to figure out possible sources of exposure.

It hasn’t worked out that way. All efforts in the U.S. are so nascent that Citizen, known for location-based crime alerts, on Thursday launched a feature called SafePass that it’s already calling the largest private contact-tracing network, with only 700,000 people testing its product.