Plain Talk: Care19 app developer says not only would it be illegal for him to sell data, the data collected is 'completely worthless' to marketers

A graphic urging North Dakotans to download the free Care19 app to help track coronavirus exposure.
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One of the innovative things the State of North Dakota has done during the coronavirus pandemic is work with a Fargo-based developer ProudCrowd to create a contact tracing app.

Contract tracing is an epidemiological technique aimed at tracking where an outbreak is happening and who it is happening to so that policies can be targeted. This allows policymakers to better strike a balance between addressing an outbreak while not unduly burdening the public.

Tim Brookins is the founder of ProudCrowd, and on this episode of Plain Talk, he talks about how his app has helped during the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as recent privacy concerns brought by another app developer .

Brookins says his company is not selling data, not only because it would be illegal under his contracts with the states of North and South Dakota, but because "it's completely worthless."


The data the Care19 app collects is anonymized, and tech giants like Facebook and Google already collect far more detailed data from many, many more people.

Is the Care19 app helping respond to the pandemic? Sort of. "We just have a really a really low usage rate," Brookins said, estimating that about 5% of North Dakota's population is using the app.

Still, in any given instance of infection, the app can be useful in helping track that person's movements. "If it helps just one person it's worth it," Brookins said.

He also said his company is working on a second app that will alert users if they've been near someone who later tests positive for the virus.

If you're interested in the Care19 app, you can get information on downloading it here .

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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