Covid-tracking apps are reinventing themselves

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Mia Sullivan


During the pandemic, covid-tracking apps built up massive user bases.

Covid-tracking app

But with the worst days seemingly behind us, some of those apps are pivoting, raising eyebrows from privacy and ethics experts, per Wired.

One example…

… is Zoe, originally founded as a diet-tracking app. In March 2020, with the app still in beta, the UK-based company shifted gears to launch the Covid Symptom Tracker app. The app:

  • Got ~4.7m downloads 
  • Received $6.2m in funding from the UK government 
  • Helped establish loss of smell and taste as covid symptoms

Last month, the app broadened into the “Zoe Health Study,” with users now being asked to record their daily mental and physical health beyond covid.

A more extreme example…

… comes from Germany’s Luca, a contact-tracing app that expanded into payments:

  • In 2021, Luca was used to check into restaurants and stores by scanning a QR code, racking up 40m users. 
  • Now, Luca wants to compete with credit card companies by allowing restaurant-goers to pay bills via QR code. 

But researchers have raised concerns about the app’s security, and health officials accessed personal data from the app despite Germany’s strict privacy laws.

The bigger question…

… is whether these pivots are ethical. While both apps provided societal value during the pandemic, their attempts to monetize users who signed up for a vastly different product rubs some people the wrong way. 

To learn the right way to pivot your own business — and how some of tech’s most famous companies did it — check out this primer from the HubSpot blog.  



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