The Saga of the Covid-19 Contact Tracing Apps: Lessons for Data Governance

15 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2020 Last revised: 21 Sep 2020

Date Written: July 7, 2020


This note selectively unpacks the rapid evolution of the (Western) debate around the opportunity to deploy contact tracing apps, alongside other digital tools such as apps for symptoms sharing and immunity certificates to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemics. I do so from the perspective of a social scientist interested in the implications of the development of digital tools at times of emergency in terms of data governance. I argue that a more articulated reflection is needed towards the development of a healthy institutional structure that regulates the role of large tech platforms, such as Google and Apple (G&A), and public institutions, in governing data, particularly when health data and public value are involved. I unravel the saga of contact tracing apps in the UK and EU, looking at the technical, legal and ethical aspects and I attempt to draw more general lessons for data governance.

Keywords: Contact tracing apps, data governance, digital applications, digital exclusion, public trust

JEL Classification: O33, O36, O38, L51

Suggested Citation

Savona, Maria, The Saga of the Covid-19 Contact Tracing Apps: Lessons for Data Governance (July 7, 2020). SWPS 2020-10, Available at SSRN: or

Maria Savona (Contact Author)

University of Sussex ( email )

Sussex House
Brighton, Sussex BNI 9RH
United Kingdom

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