TCN Coalition Member Spotlight: Ellie Daw

Our members are the heart of the Coalition, building the apps to help combat COVID-19 around the globe. In this series of blog posts we introduce some of our members and the work they are doing in exposure notifications technology. 

Meet Ellie Daw. Ellie leads TCN’s Interoperability Working Group. 

Which exposure notification app are you working on? 

Most of my work has actually been directly with the TCN Coalition, but I’ve also contributed to the Covid Watch security and engineering teams.

Is it out in the apps stores, if not, when do you anticipate it being available? 

Currently, pilots are underway with various organizations.

How did you get involved in creating an app focused on exposure notifications? 

I’ve always been very interested in applied cryptography, and over the last couple of years my interest has tended toward applications of privacy-preserving technologies. When coronavirus lockdowns were just beginning, I saw an article about the various efforts underway for using technology to supplement contact tracing, describing the impact this could have on helping to manage outbreaks before a vaccine exists. Being passionate about privacy preservation in digital solutions, I signed up to volunteer with Covid Watch and quickly found the TCN community, where many teams working toward private exposure notification came together.

What’s your role in the team? What do you do at TCN Coalition?

My role at the TCN Coalition has been Interoperability Working Group Lead, and this entails connecting various teams to discuss and solve challenges related to having multiple apps deployed. We all want our technologies to be privacy-preserving, trusted by the public, and usable. This means that they have to be able to inter-operate with one another.

What do you see as the biggest hurdle to consumer adoption for these apps and how do you plan to overcome it? 

From the TCN Coalition perspective where I’ve been connected with members of multiple apps, I think a big hurdle is public trust. This is more of an issue in some geographies than in others, but I think that teams are working really hard to solve the technological, logistical, and epidemiological challenges. An important and challenging hurdle is making sure that these solutions are able to be trusted by the public. Much of this is a matter of accurately communicating how a user’s privacy is protected and what control the user has over his or her data/participation.

Do you have any predictions on exposure notifications, both in the short-term and long term as we continue to overcome COVID-19? 

Short-term, I think we still have some challenges with public trust that will need to be overcome. There are many moving parts, and making sure that all of them are orchestrated in a way that is still able to be seen by the public as trustworthy can be difficult. Even looking toward longer-term predictions… I think there are plenty of optimistic “what if” scenarios, but in order to get there, we have to do the immediate work of building trustworthy solutions. Otherwise, long term ideals may be non-starters.

What’s unique about working for an umbrella organization of other volunteer organizations?

The TCN Coalition has been in a really exciting position where we have gotten to act as connectors between various entities and advocates for the public’s interests. We’re able to plan meetings between development teams, leaders in the space, and experts who can provide context to improve the digital exposure notification solutions.