Bass Connections Project 2020-2021


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In addition to traditional contact tracing, countries and states are increasingly exploring technologies to assist with COVID-19 contact tracing. These technologies, such as the Apple/Google API, have received considerable attention for the promise they offer to increase the speed and scale of contact tracing. Yet little attention has been given to the privacy implications of merging the personal data collected by these technology applications with data collected through more traditional forms of contact tracing such as interview notes and personal health information.

This project is through the Bass Connections program at Duke. More information can be found on the Bass Connections Webpage.

You can view our blog posts at this page.

Team Members

Faculty Leads

Graduate Team Members

  • Nima Agah, Juris Doctor
  • Chas Kissisk, Masters of Public Policy, Masters of Business Administration
  • Jaymi Thibault, Masters of Public Policy

Undergraduate Team Members

Faculty/Staff Team Contributors

Project Description

This project team will analyze current approaches to the integration of contact tracing technologies with person-to-person contact tracing used by U.S. states and countries around the world. Team members will assess these approaches against globally accepted fair information privacy principles, consider long-term impacts of contact tracing and explore the risks of these approaches to marginalized and persecuted communities.

The U.S.-based research will pursue important questions of federalism, including the way federal and state governments operate, collaborate and coordinate (or fail to) in the context of using technology to combat the global pandemic, as well as how private-public partnerships around data collection may impact public trust and legal protections. This analysis could reveal data collection policy best practices with implications beyond the pandemic, such as census data collection.

This team will also explore how the pandemic is likely to broaden the definition of “health data” and reshape public perception of permissible uses of health data. Team members will analyze the degree to which there are lessons learned from the U.S. surveillance programs developed after 9/11 and their impact on privacy and the need for government oversight and controls. The team will also analyze the effectiveness of contact tracing for other public health issues and whether data collected for those programs was used for secondary purposes such as law enforcement.

The team will review available materials, interview experts and collaborate with external privacy organizations to analyze existing contact tracing programs and develop recommendations on how U.S. states can evolve their current programs. The team will also develop multimedia products targeted toward public health officials, policymakers and the public to inform and advocate for the best practices identified through this analysis.


Click the links below to explore the work of each of our Subteams!