Limits and Lessons of COVID-19 Apps

Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn*, Oskar Josef Gstrein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

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While modern technologies—for example, in the form of airplanes facilitating international travel—enabled the coronavirus virus to spread rapidly, they were also the foreground in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably in the rapid development of novel vaccines, as well as smartphone apps used to locate, track and alert individuals to the spread of SARS-CoV-2. This chapter investigates what happened, how, and what is likely to emerge from what we characterise as a timid turn to COVID-apps in Europe during the initial outbreak of the pandemic. Our central argument is that COVID-app reliance re-turned to and extended a long-standing emphasis on digital technologies, as quick fixes to complex socio-ecological problems, a tendency known more widely as ‘technosolutionism’. Our analysis expands the growing literature on COVID-19 era technosolutionism in two ways. First, we explain how smartphone apps showed anxious citizens and consumers the rapid responsiveness of both governments and companies to the emergency in ways that navigated tensions between privacy and surveillance. Second, we elaborate how app-based responses have solidified an increasingly permanently ‘datafied’ emergency management infrastructure that threatens the very solution governments and technology firms sought between desires for privacy and surveillance. Our chapter concludes by pointing to further lessons to explore from this case of technosolutionism in troubled times.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCovid-19 Containment Policies in Europe
EditorsClara Egger, Raul Magni-Berton, Eugénie de Saint-Phalle
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Cham
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-52096-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-52098-3, 978-3-031-52095-2
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Publication series

NameInternational Series on Public Policy
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Cham
ISSN (Print)2524-7301
ISSN (Electronic)2524-731X


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