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Anjani Trivedi

Want to Know If Covid-19 Was There Before You?

No one is using big data as effectively as South Korea to combat the coronavirus, even if it gets a little personal.

An app can tell you if there was coronavirus in that subway carriage.

An app can tell you if there was coronavirus in that subway carriage.

Photographer: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Like it or not, we may have to submit to the intrusion of big data because of the coronavirus.

South Korea is at the cutting edge of how this could work in a democracy. Tracking down patient zeros — the first documented cases —  and the ones that follow is becoming critical to containment and public safety. There won’t be a cure or  vaccine anytime soon. The global number of cases is nearing 100,000. South Korea has the largest outbreak outside China, with almost 6,000 cases. The surge has largely been contained to the city where it erupted, Daegu, around a religious cult.