After several weeks/months of lockdown, it is everyone's aspiration to resume normal social interactions. However a sudden and uncoordinated resumption of such activities could trigger secondary waves of contamination, as the virus is still present.
Data transparency and consent
Whenever data might leave their device, users should
- why it is shared,
- why it is shared now,
- what is shared,
- who it is shared with,
- for how long it will be stored.
2/ agree to it before it happens, and be able to continue using the app if they don’t.
We believe everyone is entitled to choose how they participate in the coordinated fight again SARS-CoV-2. Users with strong privacy concerns should be able to use Bubbles without providing personal information. Furthermore, even anonymised data should remain under their control. Any sharing of such data must only happen with their consent, and in accordance with the other aforementioned core values. Users less concerned about privacy and willing to share data with, and receive information from local authorities or healthcare institutions because they believe this will strengthen the overall effort should be able to do so.
Bubbles is an open-source, participatory, consent-based tool that supports the global fight against SARS-CoV-2 by supporting social distancing, syndromic surveillance, contact tracing, and tailored communications.
It facilitates early detection and quick response, and is privacy centred. It can be used on both smartphones (native apps) as well as any web browser (web app).
Users create a virtual bubble by choosing a few people they decide to resume normal social interactions with. Every time they meet someone from their bubble, they manually log it in the app. No automatic tracking technology is involved. If a user develops symptoms, after following a quick questionnaire, she/he can decide to anonymously warn her bubble (orange alert). The user may also indicate a positive test result for virus infection. In that case, she/he pops her bubble (red alert). In both cases, the information is anonymously passed on to other potentially affected bubbles where users might be at risk. An algorithm calculates potential transmissions based on the chain and timing of encounters between users, and the date of symptoms onset. A green situation can be resumed when the user gets better and is not contagious anymore, or it has been determined that their symptoms were not related to COVID-19.
Our solution is only effective if it is used by a lot of people. To promote massive adoption, we try to remove as many pain-points from the user’s perspective by relying on:
- declarative data, putting users in control,
- the absence of complex tracking technologies, making it easier to understand, and trust,
- a community of caring users collaborating to keep each other safe,
- an invitation mechanism that encourages users to share the app with their friends, as it is in their interest to do so once they start using it (built-in virality).
Direct benefits for users
Progressiveness. This solution promotes a gradual resumption of social contacts, allowing users to tailor and keep track of their exposure to contamination risk.
Alerts. Users are warned of a higher contamination risk due to their social contacts. Bubbles is a tool to take care of friends, relatives and colleagues, as well as people further down the contacts chain by leveraging the collective intelligence enabled by the alert propagation algorithm.
Information. At various points within the app, users are provided with tools to assess a potential contamination, and recommendations to follow.
Benefits through support of government policies
Behavioural change. Users list their close contacts. Close contact can be defined according to local risk assessments, but as an example could be face-to-face contact within 1 meter for >15 minutes, or staying in the same close environment (including sharing a workplace, classroom or household, or being at the same gathering) for any amount of time. This supports policies in countries (e.g. Belgium) where a limited number of contacts is recommended. Users are informed that to protect their ‘bubble’ they should use protection (distancing, consistent mask use, and regular hand washing). This provides an incentive for individuals to follow social distancing guidelines – to protect the people that they care the most about.
Contact tracing. Users that could potentially be at risk (e.g. met a contact within a period 2 days before and up to 14 days after the onset of symptoms) will be alerted with communications to help prevent the spread of infection (e.g. heightened awareness to ensure consistent mask use and hand-washing).
Tailored communications. On the back-end of the system, if users choose to anonymously share this information, they can be grouped according to symptom status and date of onset. This enables bulk messages to be sent to groups of individuals that are tailored to their specific needs. This could, for example, include follow up messages to those who are symptomatic providing guidance on what to do in the case of worsened symptoms; and reminding them to change their symptom status if they recover.