Japanese teen designs contact tracing app that protects privacy

The app uses the iPhone GPS to keep records of users whereabouts

A Japanese teen has designed an iPhone software application that uses GPS so you can keep your own record of your whereabouts in your mobile phone. (Shutterstock)

HOKKAIDO, Japan (AP) — Curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic rests on knowing where infected people have been and who they’ve come in contact with so they can be tested and treated.

Like many teens, 16-year-old Syu Kato loves skateboarding, Bruno Mars and hamburgers. But he’s putting his knack for programming to good use.

Kato has designed an iPhone software application that uses GPS so individuals can keep their own records of their whereabouts in their mobile phone, to help with such contact tracing.

Called Asiato, for “footprint,” the app keeps track of a phone’s movements within a distance of 10 meters (33 feet) or more. An English version of the app is available free from the iPhone App Store.

The app works like a diary but keeps track of locations. To protect privacy, the data is stored in the phone and is not automatically shared.

If a person discovers they have COVID-19, Asiato identifies where they’ve been in the past several weeks. They would need to reach out on their own to people they may have infected, or inform health authorities if asked.

Under Japan’s pandemic state of emergency, citizens are asked, not ordered, to stay home. Keeping track of their movements remains a crucial way to help control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. It also could be used elsewhere as economies reopen around the world, Kato said.