Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are no longer able to offer the mContain app and its associated services to communities and organizations throughout the United States.
Despite our continued efforts, we regrettably must say that mContain will not be approved in a usable form for Apple iOS smartphones, forcing us to cease its development and operations in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. This project does not merit continuation without the inclusion of Apple smartphone users.
The mContain website will remain online as a reference to the efforts of our team and collaborators, including the office of legal counsel at The University of Memphis and the office of Attorney General for the State of Tennessee. All those involved donated much of their time and effort to provide a way for our community to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thankful to say that these efforts will not go to waste. The learning experiences and technological advances achieved through mContain work will provide foundations for future projects and influence decisions as new opportunities arise to advance our team science and software development going forward.
The mContain team would like to give a heartfelt show of gratitude to everyone who supported this project. THANK YOU.
Our Journey To This Decision
April 7, 2020 - We initially released the mContain app for Android via the Google Play Store through a vetted and expedient review process.
April 11, 2020 - Our team submitted a fully functional version of mContain to the Apple App Store with the hopes of a similar review timeline.
May 2, 2020 - Apple requested additional documentation to indicate that we are part of a recognized institution such as a governmental entity, hospital, insurance company, non-governmental organization, or university.
May 4, 2020 - We provided the appropriate requested documentation from The University of Memphis, a state-funded institution of higher education, to show that our team belongs to both a government entity and a university.
May 8, 2020 - At Apple’s request, we provided additional documentation regarding our policy on sensitive data protection, which states that any sensitive health information including positive COVID-19 test results are not collected or stored in the mContain app unless (1) the user signs a HIPAA-release form and (2) the testing center has an expressed agreement with the University of Memphis. Apple later responded:
“On further review, we found that your app is still out of compliance with guideline 5.1.1 (ix), as it provides the services or information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including contact tracing features, but it is not endorsed or created in partnership with a government.”
June 3, 2020 - We submitted a revised mContain app to the App Store with significant changes, including the removal of all references to COVID-19, contract tracing, and notification capabilities from the app, leaving only those features absolutely necessary to provide social crowding detection. Apple later responded:
“While we appreciate the changes made, apps that deal with social distancing are subject to the same guidelines as other COVID19 apps, since they are considered to be created in response to the COVID19 pandemic. Therefore, it would be appropriate to ensure that the app comes from the official developer account of a government organization. Thank you for your understanding.”
July 8, 2020 - We submitted letters of support from both the President of the University of Memphis and the Chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). Both institutions are partnering together to help safely reopen campuses — with UTHSC providing the COVID-19 testing capabilities our app needs for validated contact tracing. The mContain app was revised again to include these previously removed capabilities and submitted to the App Store with these letters of support.
July 28, 2020 - Apple requested additional information (14 unique and specific questions) to complete their review. We supplied answers to all of these questions later the same day. Apple responded with the following:
“We found in our review that your app provides services or requires sensitive user information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, services and information related to it are considered to be part of the healthcare industry. Specifically, services such as contact tracing should be either submitted by a government entity or be endorsed by it.
Per section 5.1.1 (ix) of the App Store Review Guidelines, apps that provide services or collect sensitive user information in highly-regulated fields, such as healthcare, should be submitted by a legal entity that provides these services, and not by an individual developer.”
As detailed above, we have made every effort to address Apple’s requests in order to release this app to our community. Sadly, it has become clear to us that the mContain app will not be approved in the App Store. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to cease the development of mContain. We are grateful for your support and understanding.