CommonCircle FAQs

What is the purpose of this app?

CommonCircle (formerly UW CovidSafe) is a pair of companion apps that seek to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the community, specifically by helping people learn if they've been exposed, connecting them to the appropriate public health guidance, and by enabling effective contact tracing. CommonCircle also reduces the burden on public health systems by offering people who have been positively diagnosed and their potential exposures, a safe, private, and fast way to communicate this information to the people who need it — public health authorities and their contact tracing teams.

How does this app benefit me?

CommonCircle offers several features to protect both you and your community:

  • Get notified about possible exposure. You may be notified if someone who was near you within the last two weeks has come down with symptoms of COVID-19. The measure of ‘near’ is not as precise as the medical definition (within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes), but it is accurate up to a few meters.
  • Track your symptoms. The symptoms you track may be useful to assist public health teams if you are confirmed positive, and for having this information readily available if you are exposed and called for a contact tracing interview. You can also get reliable, vetted information about SARS-CoV-2, why it's so dangerous, and how it spreads.
Will the CommonCircle apps protect my privacy?

The CommonCircle apps start from a foundation of privacy and control by the user so they are empowered to make better decisions from their data. As stated previously, the app is based on privacy principles outlined in the PACT document.. These principles apply to the Bluetooth proximity exposure notification, as well as to user control over the time and extent of information sharing as part of the contact tracing process in the companion app, and as part of additional voluntary information sharing. The Bluetooth proximity exposure notification app follows the Apple/Google guidance to preserve privacy, which includes strict partitioning of Bluetooth proximity exposure key pairs from other potential identifying data. This is why CommonCircle has been separated into 2 apps.

We feel it is critical to support individual control over user-generated information, within the broader context of specific and well-established public health agency responsibility and legal authority to conduct and act on investigations of communicable disease outbreaks.

Who can use CommonCircle?

When it becomes available for use, CommonCircle is free, and anyone can use it.

When will the CommonCircle app be available for use?

In Summer, 2020 we will be testing the CommonCircle app in a pilot on the campus of the University of Washington. In this pilot work, we will test the accuracy, effectiveness, user experience and end to end workflow of the bluetooth functionality of the app. We are aiming to have limited local release in Fall, 2020, with a future goal to support Public Health needs at the local and state levels.

Who else benefits from my participations with this app?

CommonCircle is capable of alerting people who have been in areas where coronavirus is active. If you test positive for coronavirus, you'll also be able to anonymously notify others you may have been in contact with over the past two weeks to alert them that they may have been exposed, and to prepare them for potential contact tracing interviews.

How does CommonCircle help public health officials?

Traditional contact tracing interviews done by public health services are important, laborious, complicated and can sometimes omit important contacts because patients forget to mention them. CommonCircle helps people who have tested positive remember locations they’ve visited recently, by providing an objective log, which they can then share with contact tracing teams. There is also functionality to organize the contact information of known contacts, which streamlines the interview process and enables contact tracers to work faster.

If I test positive and I disclose it via CommonCircle, what information is revealed to others?

If you test positive, other people with the application will be notified that at some point in the last 2 weeks, they may have come into contact with someone who has tested positive. . No other information will be revealed.

If I test negative, can a malicious person get access to my phone’s broadcasts and report me as being positive?

No, this isn’t possible. The app is encrypted to prevent it from happening using similar security technology used for other purposes, such as online banking.

If someone else obtains data used to alert people who have been exposed, what can they learn?

They'll see a sequence of random identifiers that have been broadcast over time near people who have tested positive for coronavirus. They could assume the location of the person who tested positive if the random identifiers were collected at specific locations. Otherwise, the person remains anonymous. The security of the system relies on the fact this data can be made public without compromising privacy.

If I receive a message that I have been exposed, what is disclosed to the public?

Nothing about your identity will be disclosed to the public.

Can the identity of a person who chooses to report they’ve tested positive be guessed by others?

This is very unlikely. The alerts will only tell you that a possible exposure has occurred at some point in the last 2 weeks. The alert will not tell you where or when the exposure happened. Alerts are not designed to tell you in real time that an exposure is currently happening. If you get an alert, it means that someone you have been in close proximity with in the last 2 weeks has just confirmed a positive test.However, the person's identity will never be broadcast directly. People’s identities aren’t stored in the data. Only the infected person’s random broadcast is stored.

What data is stored on my phone? What data about me is stored publicly?

Most modern phones have the capability to broadcast a random signal (using Bluetooth) to other nearby phones. If the user downloads the app and enables the bluetooth and notification function, you can harness this function to help identify other users that have been close to you through the Bluetooth broadcast function. These broadcast signals can be thought of as non-identifying random numbers. The signal each phone broadcasts changes, so the signals remain anonymous and can’t be linked to a specific person. If someone tests positive and chooses to disclose this information to help others, they would be disclosing only their phone's broadcasts for the past two weeks. This lets other people using CommonCircle check if they were near the infected person to determine if they were exposed, based on their own phones' broadcasts.

How does location tracking work?

See the Bluetooth section in the PACT white paper.

Will this information be shared with government agencies?

The tool won't alert government agencies about your identity if you're exposed. In order to help contain the spread of COVID19, you can elect to share that information during a contact tracing interview with a public health professional. However, this will be the decision of the user how they share this information and with whom.

Why should I report my illness?

If you become ill, you can use the app to improve the efficiency and completeness of manual contact tracing interviews. Your privacy is maximized by ensuring that all the data remains on your device, except for what you voluntarily reveal to healthcare authorities to enable more effective contact tracing.

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