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COVID-19 tech will fail without employee privacy


Microsoft’s COVID-19 and employee privacy plans

Microsoft plans to have an “attestation app” for all its U.S. employees who return to offices over the coming months, company president Brad Smith said. Microsoft is developing the technology in partnership with UnitedHealth Group.

In general, the app would confirm that employees were virus-free each day they entered the office, Smith said. He did not provide details on how the app would work but said any employer could use it.

The company is also considering contact-tracing technology, Smith said during an online interview this week at the Collision tech conference. However, “we don’t see an app-based approach as a silver bullet.”

“It’s not going to eliminate the need for even the role of humans who are working as contact tracers,” he said.

Whatever technology a company uses will have to conform to Microsoft’s seven privacy principles, which include minimal data collection for public health purposes.

“We believe, in fact, we can put technology to work in a way that can advance public health goals and protect privacy at the same time,” Smith said.


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