Privacy Implications of COVID-19 Contact Tracing (2020-2021)

This project team analyzed current approaches and attitudes toward contact tracing used by U.S. states and countries around the world. Team members assessed these approaches against globally accepted fair information privacy principles, considered long-term impacts of contact tracing and explored the risks of these approaches to marginalized and persecuted communities.

The team worked in five subteams:

  • Trust and Contact Tracing team: This subteam developed a survey to understand peoples attitudes toward sharing health information and to determine whether individuals felt their information would be used in good faith by institutions facilitating contact tracing. In particular, this subgroup was interested in the perception of Black and Latinx communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and have historical reasons to mistrust health services and other institutions.
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) team: This subteam partnered with the OECD to consider how have different countries approached contact tracing. Team members analyzed six countries with a mix of cultural, political and geographic backgrounds (U.S., Mexico, United Kingdon, France, Israel, South Korea) and compared their approaches to contact tracing to develop a white paper with recommendations for approaches to future contract tracing programs and practices.
  • North Carolina Cities and Counties team: This subteam examined all 100 counties in North Carolina to assess and compare contact tracing policies across the state. Team members performed a literature review and reviewed data from county and township-level meetings to determine contact tracing trends and best practices. The team also conducted interviews with individuals from select North Carolina counties to examine how contact tracing was unfolding on the ground.
  • Technology team: This subteam focused on evaluating how different data servers are protecting and using collected contact tracing data. The team assessed centralized and decentralized methods of data collection and developed a working set of best practices and recommendations for future contact tracing efforts.
  • Duke Compact team: This subteam delved into the data management practices and privacy concerns associated with The Duke Compact. Required for Duke faculty, staff and students in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022, the agreement outlined masking and physical distancing rules and allowed Duke to collect Duke Card data associated with building and parking access, financial transactions, wifi, campus housing and class rosters. Team members examined how this data was collected, who had access to it and where it is stored in order to consider the implications of The Duke Compact on privacy.


Fall 2020 – Spring 2021


Coronavirus Conversations: Lessons Learned - Contact Tracing at Duke, in North Carolina and Beyond

Team Outputs

Inventory of county (North Carolina) and state approaches to contact tracing

White paper on different countries’ approaches to contact tracing

Survey and analysis of the potential impacts to privacy and the impact on at-risk communities

COVID-19 Experiences: Introduction & First Interview (by Paige Kleidermacher and Lily Li)

This Team in the News

Where Does My Data Go? Privacy Implications of COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Students Provide Policy Options for Federal Data Privacy Legislation

Senior Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2023


Image courtesy of Duke Today


Team Leaders

  • Jolynn Dellinger, Kenan Institute for Ethics|Duke Law
  • David Hoffman, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • David Schanzer, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Shane Stansbury, Duke Law

/graduate Team Members

  • Jaymi Thibault, Masters of Public Policy
  • Nima Agah, Juris Doctor

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ana Martinez, Electrical & Computer Egr(BSE)
  • Jessica Yang, Electrical & Computer Egr(BSE)
  • Mutian Xin, Statistical Science (BS)
  • Luke Schwartz, Political Science (AB)
  • Samia Noor, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Leah Markbreiter, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Pei Li, Statistical Science (BS)
  • Paige Kleidermacher, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • Phoebe Dijour, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Christine Bergamini, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Laura Boyle, Mathematics (BS)
  • Emily Breneisen, Economics (BS)
  • Ayana Chowdhary, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Joslin Coggan, Political Science (AB)
  • Ana DeCesare, Neuroscience (AB)
  • Devan Desai, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Annabel Howell, Political Science (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Kartik Nayak, Arts & Sciences-Computer Science
  • Joselyn McDonald, Duke Office of Information Technology
  • Matthew Perault, Science & Society
  • Kenneth Rogerson, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Christopher Schroeder, Duke Law
  • Isha Sharma, Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Stacy Tantum, Pratt School of Engineering-Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Jeffrey Ward, Duke Law

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • Bob Sullivan