After the shutdown, the testing and tracing. Trace, test and treat is the mantra no lockdowns, no roadblocks and no restriction on movement in South Korea. To suppress and control the epidemic, countries must isolate, test, treat and trace, say WHO.
But what does tracing look like exactly? In Singapore, they use a TraceTogether app, which uses Bluetooth to track nearby phones (without location tracking), keeps local logs of those contacts, and only uploads them to the Ministry of Health when the user chooses/consents, presumably after a diagnosis, so those contacts can be alerted. Singapore plans to open-source the app.
In South Korea, the government texts people to let them know if they were in the vicinity of a diagnosed individual. The information conveyed can include the persons age, gender, and detailed location history. Subsequently, even more details may be made available:
In China, as you might expect, the surveillance is even more pervasive and draconian. Here, the pervasive apps Alipay and WeChat now include health codes green, yellow, or red set by the Chinese government, using opaque criteria. This health status is then used in hundreds of cities (and soon nationwide) to determine whether people are allowed to e.g. ride the subway, take a train, enter a building, or even exit a highway.
What about us, in the rich democratic world? Are we OK with the Chinese model? Of course not. The South Korean model? Probably not. The Singaporean model? Maybe. (I suspect it would fly in my homeland of Canada, for instance.) But the need to install a separate app, with TraceTogether or the directionally similar MIT project Safe Paths, is a problem. It works in a city-state like Singapore but will be much more problematic in a huge, politically divided nation like America. This will lead to inferior data blinded by both noncompliance and selection bias.
More generally, at what point does the urgent need for better data collide with the need to protect individual privacy and avoid enabling the tools for an aspiring, or existing, police state? And lets not kid ourselves; the pandemic increases, rather than diminishes, the authoritarian threat.
Maybe, like the UKs NHS, creators of new pandemic data infrastructures will promise Once the public health emergency situation has ended, data will either be destroyed or returned but not all organizations instill the required level of trust in their populace. This tension has provoked heated discussion around whether we should create new surveillance systems to help mitigate and control the pandemic.
This surprises me greatly. Wherever you may be on that spectrum, there is no sense whatsoever in creating a new surveillance system seeing as how multiple options already exist. We dont like to think about it, much, but the cold fact is that two groups of entities already collectively have essentially unfettered access to all our proximity (and location) data, as and when they choose to do so.
I refer of course to the major cell providers, and to Apple & Google. This was vividly illustrated by data company Tectonix in a viral visualization of the spread of Spring Break partygoers:
Needless to say, Apple and Google, purveyors of the OSes on all those phones, have essentially the same capability as and when they choose to exercise it. An open letter from technologists, epidemiologists & medical professionals calls on Apple, Google, and other mobile operating system vendors (the notion that any other vendors are remotely relevant is adorable) to provide an opt-in, privacy preserving OS feature to support contact tracing.
Theyre right. Android and iOS could, and should, add and roll out privacy-preserving, interoperable, TraceTogether-like functionality at the OS level (or Google Play Services level, to split fine technical hairs.) Granted, this means relying on corporate surveillance, which makes all of us feel uneasy. But at least it doesnt mean creating a whole new surveillance infrastructure. Furthermore, Apple and Google, especially compared to cellular providers, have a strong institutional history and focus on protecting privacy and limiting the remit of their surveillance.
(Dont believe me? Apples commitment to privacy has long been a competitive advantage. Google offers a thorough set of tools to let you control your data and privacy settings. I ask you: where is your cell service providers equivalent? Ah. Do you expect it to ever create one? I see. Would you also be interested in this fine, very lightly used Brooklyn Bridge I have on sale?)
Apple and Google are also much better suited to the task of preserving privacy by anonymizing data sets (I know, I know, but see below), or, better yet, preserving privacy via some form(s) of differential privacy and/or homomorphic encryption or even some kind of zero-knowledge cryptography, he handwaved wildly. And, on a practical level, theyre more able than a third-party app developer to ensure a background service like that stays active.
Obviously this should all be well and firmly regulated. But at the same time, we should remain cognizant of the fact that not every nation believes in such regulation. Building privacy deep into a contact-tracing system, to the maximum extent consonant with its efficacy, is especially important when we consider its potential usage in authoritarian nations who might demand the raw data. Anonymized location datasets admittedly tend to be something of an oxymoron, but authoritarians may still be technically stymied by the difficulty of deanonymization; and if individual privacy can be preserved even more securely than that via some elegant encryption scheme, so much the better.
Compared to the other alternatives government surveillance; the phone companies; or some new app, with all the concomitant friction and barriers to usage Apple and Google are by some distance the least objectionable option. Whats more, in the face of this global pandemic they could roll out their part of the test-and-trace solution to three billion users relatively quickly. If we need a pervasive pandemic surveillance system, then lets use one which (though we dont like to talk about it) already exists, in the least dangerous, most privacy-preserving way.
Go here to read the rest:
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- Google Teams With NVIDIA on New Cloud Computing Offerings - The Motley Fool - July 8th, 2020
- WATCH NOW: Want to know about the UFO seen over Martinsville? Google the answer - Martinsville Bulletin - July 8th, 2020
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- Google is bringing Microsoft Office and other Windows apps to Chromebooks - The Verge - June 20th, 2020
- Google has a new Stadia starter kit, and its $30 cheaper - The Verge - June 20th, 2020
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- Why Facebook Joined Google and Tencent in Gojek Investment - Market Realist - June 6th, 2020
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- Google Told Its Workers That They Cant Use Zoom On Their Laptops Anymore - BuzzFeed News - April 13th, 2020
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- Google Launches a Series of Blog Posts Highlighting the Value of SEO - Search Engine Journal - April 13th, 2020
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- Google will show virtual care options more prominently in search results - The Verge - April 11th, 2020
- Google is rebranding Hangouts Chat as just Google Chat - The Verge - April 11th, 2020
- Billions Of Google Chrome Users Now Have Another Surprising Option - Forbes - April 11th, 2020
- Coronavirus Live Updates: Apple and Google are Building a Tool to Track the Contagion - The New York Times - April 11th, 2020
- Googles midrange Pixel 4A could launch soon, and there may not be an XL version - The Verge - April 11th, 2020
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- Google outage hits Gmail, Snapchat and Nest - The Guardian - April 11th, 2020
- Former Google CEO: This is the first time as a species we have had to face the same problem as a planet - MarketWatch - April 11th, 2020
- Google removes Android VPN with critical vulnerability from Play Store - Naked Security - April 11th, 2020
- In This City, Toilet Paper Comes From The Sky Thanks To Googles Drones - Forbes - April 11th, 2020
- Google's UK staff earned average of 234,000 in 2019 - The Guardian - April 11th, 2020
- 'Google never forgets:' Bucknell professor on effects of social media on privacy - NorthcentralPa.com - April 11th, 2020
- Google May Be Forced to Reveal its Search Algorithm to an SEO - Search Engine Journal - April 11th, 2020
- Which 3D animals are missing from Googles AR objects feature? [Poll] - 9to5Google - April 11th, 2020
- Need to file for unemployment? NY partners with Google to fix labor department website - syracuse.com - April 11th, 2020
- Advertising Is Getting Crushed by Covid-19. Why Facebook, Google Cant Save the Industry. - Barron's - April 11th, 2020
- Facebook, Google and Twitter Struggle to Handle Novembers Election - The New York Times - March 30th, 2020
- Google Unveiled a Massive Stimulus Program of Its Own - Inc. - March 30th, 2020
- My top 3 Google Home pet peeves and how to fix them - CNET - March 30th, 2020