Enabling vital research while protecting privacy

Enabling vital research while protecting privacy
Moai Team
Moai Team

Research into COVID-19 is vital, but how can we carry it out without compromising individual privacy? Moai has the answer.

In a recent court case in Berlin, bars and restaurants won the right to remain open, even as infection rates surged in Germany. Their argument? That there was no data to prove that they were the source of ‘clusters’ of COVID-19 cases.

It is clear that restrictions are needed to prevent the spread of this coronavirus. But there are also massive repercussions for people, businesses and society when those restrictions come into play. By conducting research into how the virus behaves and spreads, we can make better decisions about what restrictions we need to enforce, and minimise the consequences of them.

Working on assumptions

We all know there is no rule book for this pandemic, and it certainly seems many governments are having to work on assumptions, in the absence of facts, when it comes to lawmaking: decisions about which parts of the economy to shut down, reopen, or create restrictions around (like curfews for bars) without all the data. But how do they get the insights to make better, fairer decisions? How do they strike a balance between health and economic risks, and target the response to be most effective and least intrusive?

Most countries now have some sort of contact tracing app, a way of letting citizens know when they have potentially been exposed to coronavirus. But what these don’t tend to do - and why uptake may still be quite low - is fully protect user privacy. Another balance to be struck for public bodies: assessing the risks while maintaining public trust (and operating within privacy laws).

Understanding virus propogation

It’s a complex problem, and that’s why our team of researchers and developers have worked hard on an app that helps us better understand the truth behind COVID-19 propagation by safely collecting actionable data with state-of-the-art privacy-preserving technology. In other words, Moai can help politicians better understand key propagation factors, while still keeping personal data private.

Our unique technology ensures total security, as data is totally encrypted at every stage. Users check in to venues using their QR code, but their data is always anonymised.

App users who have tested both negative and positively for COVID-19, will be asked to fill in a short survey about the kind of places they have been and the ways they have been interacting. From this information, we can get a clearer picture of how venue type, ventilation, human contact and other factors contribute to the propagation of the virus.

Moreover, the app can be accessed on a wide range of devices, so we don’t limit the audience, which allows for better data collection. This in turn allows for deeper understanding of how COVID-19 spreads. It will allow the right precautions to be put in place, stop the spread of coronavirus and maintain ‘business as usual’ as far as possible.