Contact Tracer

I am the Contact Tracer,
The Clinical Assessor,
The Second Guesser,

I decide if you live off rice and beans,
Sorry, you’re not eligible, 
For priority food deliveries,

You’re not actually ill,
Not yet, 
Don’t fret,

But you were stood next to, 
Someone who hadn’t, 
Obeyed the rules,

Now you’re caught,
In the cross lines, 
Of the Contact Trace,

I am the Contact Tracer, 
The Data Processor, 
The Great Assessor,

I fill in the gaps of who went where, 
Who they shook hands with, 
Who breathed the same air,

I input the data, 
It gives me a score,
I decide if you can cross your door,

I am the Contact Tracer,
The Data Implicator,
The Social Experiment still in Beta,

I work with Palantir,
Though it’s a name, 
You will probably never hear,

In 20 years time we’ll be able to tell, 
Who you stood next to,
When you went to the shops,

I am the Contact Tracer, 
The Privacy Eraser,
The Modifier of Behaviour,

I assess your degrees of separation,
I tell you be prepared, 
To be indoors for many days longer,

I am the Contact Tracer,
I input the data,
I output how things could, or should be?

I make predictions based on…
What? Who might have lied?
How many more in your postcode have died?

I am the Contact Tracer,
And I’ve got you caught, 
In between, 
The fear of Covid,
And your Civil Liberties…

By Leila Hogarth | @LeilaHogarth



Corinne was almost done completing her Health Enforcement Legal Procedure (HELP) statement. Soon, her neighbor’s health profile would be compared to the Pijoon’s record of anonymised DNA samples most commonly collected at this address. To be fair, she did not want to do it, but it had become inevitable. The condescension, the disrespect, it had been bordering on harassment for weeks, she had to put an end to it.


Breonna was sipping her tea when she noticed Corinne storm back towards her house simultaneously reaching for her phone and scrambling to get her voice recognition to let her back into her house. What had happened? The Pijoons were just buzzing about, as always, this time, sniffing around Fiona’s trash. Breonna could not remember how many had been dispatched over the past five years. She took a sip of tea, she didn’t particularly like the taste but it helped keep her asthma in check. A handful? A dozen? These new-age neighborhood watchers had earned her sympathy but not her trust. Their appearance was so uncanny… Were they real pigeons? 

Sometimes she worried their eyes could remotely shoot laser beams… But she had seen enough kicked around and forcefully man-handled by clumsy kids to know there were neither weapons nor organic matter in these little pigeon-esque robots. It was nice to know that unlike humans, these little guys could never directly cause her harm. Shit, a tea leaf got stuck between her teeth. They spent their day trotting or flying about, pecking at the floor, diving into trash, if she didn’t know any better, she’d have thought they were racoons. But what were they doing exactly? How could any of their commotion ensure the neighborhood remained healthy? Wasn’t that what the health commissioner had said? And what was she doing exactly? Did she believe in the preemptive health benefits of this medicinal tea? Was she even really just having tea or had this morning ritual become more about reading the micro-signs of her streets? Frustrated by her own lack of focus, Breonna got up and emptied her tea leaves into the compost.


It’d been days since Fiona had gotten a good night sleep. It seemed as if her hands were glued to her computer. The rest was a blur. The deadline was so close, even if she couldn’t see the end of the tunnel, it was palpable, or would have been had she been able to pry her hands from the keyboard. Chores, people, family, they could all wait, this article needed to be finished. Of course, being diligent and generally civic-minded, she took out her trash, avoided disposable packaging when doing groceries, and always kept her mask on when leaving the house. But she did all of this without quite being there. Her eyes swollen, in pain, her mind consumed by the promise of a Pulitzer. Fiona could tell something was off, had been off, for weeks. But what? All she could tell was that Pijoons had been hanging around her house more than usual. How much more fallen hairs and dead skin samples did these creeps need? What were they doing with them? The other day, she saw two of them tangled in a plastic bag, struggling to fly, it had made her laugh. In a flash she had thought of her last relationship, of Magritte’s lovers, of humans’ clumsy grappling with fatality that drives them to copulate. Chuckling, she turned around, walking towards her door. Her eyes crossed Corinne’s, the neighbor with whom she shared a disposal spot. Too weak to wave, Fiona feigned a smile as she walked into her house. Making her way back to her computer, she kept wondering why Corrine was making such a face this morning.


Corinne had the final word. With her HELP, the Pijoon social workers were soon dispatched in full hazmat and disinfection gear. They evacuated Fiona and vaped her at-risk home. Harmless for humans, vaping helps efficiently disinfect surfaces. They also vaped Breonna’s home, the saliva collected on the tea leaves in her compost showed she was healthy but a medium risk profile nonetheless. A couple of other houses on the block and individuals from the grocery stores that Pijoons were able to establish spatio-temporal overlap with were issued warnings.

Corrine, although conflicted about the brashness of the events, felt that much safer. Once again the neighborhood was safe she thought, “Thank you Pijoon, thank you contact-tracing, thank you innovation!”


Fiona on the other hand was shaken and disoriented by the intrusion. Standing in front of her house in Breonna’s arms, she was wrapping her head around the events. Had she screamed? Didn’t she refuse? Her dry eyes shed a single tear. The only one she could afford for the article she had been unable to backup before the health squad had vaped her house and inadvertently fried her computer. Breonna too was grappling with the events and had trouble breathing, she could feel the asthma attack coming. Popping in her inhaler, she cursed the health enforcement forces.

By Hugo Pilate | @hugo_pilate / @enchaussettes

They Killed for Fashion

It’s London Fashion Week, or it would be if they hadn’t had to stop because of the fucking pandemic. Everything had literally ‘gone viral’ and the shops and the stores and the markets and boutiques and catwalks had crumbled and closed. Unnecessary Public Gatherings had ended and the faces and the frocks and the fabulousness and the fashion darling had been asked to reinvent itself, to stop polluting so much, to calm down, to face the music, to grow up, to evolve, to revolve, to revolt, to promote ………………………. Kindnesses, it bit its lip to admit it had no interest in, to clean up to be less, well less more! To limit their excesses buy buying less dresses, “frock off Darling!”

“It’s not the fucking same online Darling, I neeeed to feel the fabric! And I need to be seen feeling the fucking fabric Darling!” Seen Darling Seen!

Put the devil in Primark! They were heard to remark, ‘Rafs gone to Prada’, Satan will just have to try harder. There’s a trade to be made here, but it not going to be Fair, not while there’s make up and lights and the shoes and the hair. Don’t care. It’s been this way for ever and must be preserved, conserved, revered and observed. Not Reveilled and removed, quantified and approved! “Frock off Darling!”

They’d no right to end the mannequin parade. What did they think this was for? “Get your fucking gloved hands of my fucking Dior!”

In the pursuit of perfection there were debts to be paid. Pants made, skins flayed and hot hip – hop tracks to be played, stars made, and wages of astronomy paid. Underground, there’s the sound! The sound of the underground, Now the bound of the streets was out of ‘Style’ A new playground would need to be found, A fool’s yard of fashion to adore and beyond. A new venue must rise, and a vibe must be found. Something Drop Dead! So Now! Forget Last season it was so viral! Something new. Now.

But they weren’t happy, the editors and the acolytes, the bloggers and the blaggers, the ‘ista’s and the influencers and the writers and the bullshiters. They weren’t happy at all.

Tagged? Registered, counted and accountable? “Don’t you know who I am? “Get Anna!” Tell Karl!” Frow Darling Frow – It’s the only place to be! Don’t you know! Darling Frow! “Oh, Frock off!” They ignored the advice, they were rebels, renegades, anti – establishment, heroes, Heroine chicers! Rule Breakers If they were going down the then they were going to look fucking fabulous darling!

So, they met, underground, silent disco sound so underground – no sound. Only the click and snap of the heels darling, on the floor stomping out that hippy rhythm just like before, and they sat and stood as close as possible, to get the shot to snap the chat, to tik the tok, and, but, shock! They couldn’t now share it, post it, roast it, toast it? Nowhere, cos it would track they were there, with no views of their hair? the bag? that hag? The wag?

So, secret it stayed till in lines they were laid, the istas, the editors and the acolytes, the bloggers and the blaggers, the ‘istas and the influencers and the writers and the bullshiters.

Laid out in rows with immaculate toes, with the bags and the fags in couture body bags.

The old century debate rattled on unabashed “It is Art Darling!………. Isn’t it?” There’s torture and suffering …………… There needs to be? Right Darling?  There’s no tangible purpose Darling? …………. Is there? “It’s symptomatic of the human condition Darling…………. isn’t it? It’s about diversity and creative cultural expression Darling! ……………isn’t it? It’s Fabulous Darling! ……….. Isn’t it? It’s Eternal Darling! ………………. isn’t it? It can never die Darling …………. Can it?

So, they’d kept it alive and they Killed for Fashion.

By Chris Hodge | @christyhodge41

Don’t walk on the grass

***thump ***

It was too dark to see, but Irma was sure this is where she buried it. It was frustrating, but at the same time she took some pride in the fact that the grass was getting too lush to clearly navigate to the spot.

***thump ***

The shovel was getting heavier. This whole thing really backfired. As much grief as this patchy area had given her in the past, all this digging had made matters much worse. Irma was never the best at thinking long-term. Plus, she trusted Randy with the tech-side of this. “I prefer dumb things”, she told Randy once, as he was bragging about how smart his home had gotten.

*** thump ***

Another heap of sand. I’ll have to come back at sunrise to tidy up, Irma thought to herself. People could get suspicious.


Bloody hell. This is a workout.

It had only been a few days since Irma and her brother chatted and came up with the plan. “This is your chance”, Randy had said. “You always complain about it. And it’s only going to get worse – it’s getting sunnier, and people are advised to spend more time outside. The parks are going to get crowded.”


 “You don’t have to tell me”, Irma grunted. “Gosh, I hate those people. With their little picnics. Their skinny bikes that pedal backwards for some reason. Charcuterie boards and craft beers spilling out of tote bags onto artisanal blankets. You can support local business without leaving a trail of branded trash, you know? You would think they would respect nature a bit more, now that it’s all they have. They should just stay in the city.”


Irma wiped the sweat of her forehead. In her 12 years of service on the park board, the patch next to the baseball diamond had been a constant source of frustration. Her coworkers didn’t understand – they would make fun of her continuous efforts to keep people off the grass. “It’s not a crime-scene, Irma!” they joked. “Not yet,” she responded in a deadpan matter that must have terrified them to the bone – as it had bought her a couple weeks of small-talk-free labor. She preferred it that way. “They don’t love the park the way I do”, she told Randy.


Finally. Irma kneeled down and reached into the hole. As she brushed the dirt off the small metal tin, she reminded herself to never listen to Randy again. Sure, the kid can hack, but he’s too opportunistic when it comes to technology. At least two weeks, he told her – yeah, right. The batteries on these things are ridiculous. You might as well keep them plugged in and call it a landline.

She opened the tin and took out the phone. It was definitely dead. When they buried it, Randy and Irma had speculated on what would happen. It was a bit of a gamble, but Irma was desperate. Just a couple of days with not one single human stepping on that patch, that would be enough for the seeds to sprout. And Randy had been very convincing. “If enough people go there and ‘get sick’, the spot will become veiled in mystery”. A folk tale. A sub-urban myth. A story for the time being. And in times like these, people will buy into anything.

By Doenja Oogjes | @doenjaoogjes

Let’s stay together

Content Note: This post makes reference to domestic abuse in the form of coercive control. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse, there are links to further information and support below

I don’t want them to go. Once the isolation was ending I knew that it meant that they’d be going out again; going to work, seeing other people. I wouldn’t be able to see them all the time anymore – no more popping in to see how they were doing, to surprise them; No more afternoon cuddles. Would they come back if they left? I’ve been working hard to show them how good I’ve been; that I can listen, and I can behave. Not like before. We’re connecting on a whole new level now; we’ve been through the bad times, and now we’re finally at a good place. We have so much time together now; it’s us against the world. I don’t want that to change. If I say I’m sick, it will say they’re sick. They’ll have to work from home. They won’t go out; They’ll stay with me. We’ll stay together. Together, forever. They love me, so why would they ever want to leave? They’ll be happy. We’ll be happy. I’m doing this for us. Aren’t you happy? Don’t you love me? You know things were bad before, why do you want to go back to that? Are you leaving me? How could you leave me? Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, let’s stay together: That’s how it goes, right? Together, forever. Stay here, with me. I won’t let you go; I won’t let you leave me. Show me your app’s on; show me you love me. Good. I love you.

By Kiersten Hay | @SayHayDay

Information and Support

Information and links to support groups from the UK Government, including specific support related to Coronavirus

Information about coercive control as a form of domestic abuse

This fiction was inspired by the play Rattlesnake produced by Open Clasp and Live Theatre which also has an excellent set of resources for supporting victims of domestic abuse.

Fed Up

This is getting so annoying. Before the pandemic we’d be in trouble for using our phones at school. If it was inside your pocket and you forgot to switch it off it would be confiscated, your parents had to collect it in person. A friend of mine used to go to a super strict school where he was not even allowed to own one, they said it was antisocial and unhealthy. But now we are back and we are supposed to be carrying our smartphones switched on all the time. We can’t even enter school if the app says we’ve been near anyone who was infected. The other day our PE teacher was denied entry and we didn’t do sports for two weeks.

Some people are lucky because they live close to school or have parents who can drive them to classes. But many of us have to take the bus or the tube. It’s always jam-packed so social distance is impossible. We are often sent home to quarantine and so what’s the point of going back to school.

Before the virus, they made us write an essay on the effects of smartphone addiction on young people. This year they are asking us to write about how apps can keep us safe. As if we didn’t know that all we have to do is write down their fears and act as if they are ours.

By Paulina Yurman | @PYurman13

The reviews are in …

OS Track & Trace Your Household Frequent locations Overall Rating Watch Support 
Windows Phone Yes   1 ★ (13)  
iOS Yes Yes Yes 4 ★ (295) Yes 
Android Yes Yes  3 ★ (307) Yes 
Features across operating systems

Dave Smith (Windows Phone)

★★☆☆☆ Minimal functionality once again 

Having to use a Windows phone for my job, it is unfortunate to see that once again the Windows Phone OS is being left behind. Is the  government trying to show us that only those who can afford the best and the brightest are allowed to be safe? This seems to be the message sent. I don’t want to catch the virus, I do want to keep people safe. But I can’t fork out lots of money to do so. Sorry central government, it’s a yes from me, but a no from you. 

Jane Doe (iOS)

★☆☆☆☆ It’s just spying without the title 

Yes I don’t want to catch the virus, but having a mandatory app on my phone to track where I go all day? No thank you. I don’t want the government knowing where I go all day every day, checking on my shopping, my friends. I don’t want them to start targeting advertisements at me. I can’t believe people don’t see the light, this Coronavirus is all a conspiracy to make us take their vaccinations and have their people spying on us all day. Big brother won’t be watching me.This app uses the internet too, don’t be fooled! They want you to use their 5G with this app to make it spread more!! See sense! 

George James (iOS)

★★★★★ A fantastic idea 

As an NHS worker, Track and Trace app is a fantastic idea. We have to be based on the science, and the science shows this is the most effective method of dealing with the virus. I have been on a COVID ward, and if by using this app I can protect the people around me and stop them from getting there, I will. With a range of functionality, a sleek and smooth design, this app has the potential to save lives by just living your day to day life.  

By Lauren Scott | @Aithaea_

Following the rules

Zaki waited outside the Manchester UKVCAS offices. He had arrived 30 minutes early to his visa appointment and they would not let him wait inside. He took out his phone and shielded it from the rain to double check that he has all the documents the home office said he should bring. He also made sure that he had deleted all the Whatsapp conversations he has had with his friends. He had never had to worry what is on his phone before applying for his resettlement visas but ever since the new contact tracing app was introduced he has felt that the government can see all his conversations (online and offline).

His friend told him he should download the contact tracing app saying, “What if they ask you if you have downloaded it? They might think that you do not listen to the government if you have not downloaded it! They will think you do not care for the health of the British people”. So last night he deleted apps that took up space on his phone, like the English dictionary app, to make space for the app. He really hopes that they can’t figure out that he only downloaded it yesterday. He did consider downloading it earlier but he has flat mates with different refugee and asylum seeking issues and he did not know how much data it would be gathering about him and everyone. Sure they say that only the NHS would see the data but every GP appointment they ask him how long he has been living in the UK so surely the government is connecting the dots.

It is time to go in now. He takes a deep breath and walks in. He sits in the waiting room waiting for his number to come up. He keeps reminding himself to stay calm and repeating in his head “Zaki, you have followed all the rules, you have all the paperwork, you downloaded the app, you are a good citizen”.

His number appears on the screen and he is asked to go to booth number 6, he sits down and the UKVCAS officer smiles at him and asks him to hand over his paperwork. She goes through the papers and confirms that he has all the paperwork. Just when Zaki thought it was all done she says to him, “As you know, we are not the home office we just process the paperwork and so we do not do any interviews. But we have been asked by the home office to ask you if you have been abiding by the social distancing measures.”

Zaki responded saying: “Yes, Yes I have. I have not been going out except to buy food and I do not meet with friends outside my household”

She nodded her head and said: “OK that is it from our end. You can go now”. Just as he was getting up she said: “Oh just quickly, have you downloaded and used the contact tracing app?”

This fiction was written by a HCI researcher but is published anonymously due to the author’s concerns that it might adversely impact their own immigration status.

Announcement: MyContact App Available Now

Dear Students,

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new MyContact app. This innovative app, built in an exclusive partnership with a consortium of leading institutions, advertising companies and Government agencies, will guarantee our world-class campus experience remains virus minimized. This mandatory app is freely available for download and fully compatible with the wide range of approved smartphones available to purchase or hire from the University shop. 

The completely anonymous data we collect is fully integrated with our state-of-the-art smart campus learning analytics system. This means that the app will not only provide you with the virus minimized campus experience you deserve, but can also save you the hassle of registering attendance at lectures, tracking the time you have spent doing group project work, and making sure you claim your guaranteed 110 minutes of weekly contact time with our internationally recognised expert lecturers (subject to availability). All MyContact-Negative students will also be able to use the app to access the library, our sporting facilities, the secure panic-zones, and to spend up to 15 minutes each semester playing with our new hypoallergenic therapy kittens. 

Smart symptom tracking via our new big data Stay Alert infrared camera and microphone system will save you the difficulty of completing symptom questionnaires and provide peace of mind that no one ‘accidently forgets’ to log when they have symptoms. Any student that is MyContact-Positive is automatically granted access to one of our fully-equipped isolation pods (subject to availability), and their friends and family are automatically informed along with our containment team. MyContact-Positive students will be granted a remote-controlled human-proxy at no charge for up to 4 days a semester. 

Please download the app today, and remember never to approach University staff unless they are wearing a full set of protective equipment. 

Kind regards,

Vice Chancellor, Cynical University

By John Rooksby |@johnrooksby


Lincolnshire family SHAMED on social media for not wearing contact tracing badge in supermarket.

6 August 2020

Last Wednesday, 6 August, a photo of a family not wearing their badge in the supermarket went viral on social media. The family was bluntly shamed by thousands, calling them ‘terrorists’ and a ‘threat to the country’. 

“We haven’t been given the badges yet. It is so unfair that my daughter was exposed this way. Whoever took that photo has ruined her entire childhood.” Said the affected father in an interview with our reporter. The family is seriously considering moving out from Coningsby, Lincolnshire, after this incident. 

Since its rollout, the COVID-19 tracing app remains controversial. As part of the nationwide campaign to encourage the British people to install the tracing app on their devices, the government handed badges that people must wear at all times in public spaces to show their fellow citizens that they are complying with the government measures. The ‘Contact Safe Badge’ campaign began after only a minimal per cent of the population downloaded the NHS CT app back in June. “This campaign taps into peer pressure,” said behavioural psychologist Irma Ingmar, and indeed we are starting to see those results. 

By Carlos Alvarez | @CarlosAlvarezIF