Apple and Google are working on coronavirus contact-tracing technology for iOS and Android

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/04/10/apple-and-google-are-working-o.html

1 Like

Actually not much good if it doesn’t show location. Plus, Google and Apple haven’t shown me that they can be trusted. So, you know, what could go wrong?

4 Likes

Except this is exactly the purpose of what they are working on its to track people.

This is an example of corporate doublespeak on its face. It’s literally the point to track people so they are out right lying.

2 Likes

what if I was wearing a mask when my phone was close to their phone?

2 Likes

It will know as long as it’s an iMask or other supported ppe. As long as your subscription hasn’t lapsed.

2 Likes

Whether we like it or not, we can’t open up a social economy until 1) there is a vaccine and all are vaccinated or 2) we have universal testing and monitoring of infected people. We could wait for #1, or we can devise a reasonable system of #2.

People have always accepted a lot of difficult systematic changes to social order during wars. Maybe this is our time to FINALLY figure out how we can use tech and protect our freedoms from unreasonable intrusions at the same time.

3 Likes

I want to be optimistic about this, because in the midst of all this awfulness there have been at least a few reasons for optimism.

But… conservative majority courts plus trolls probably mean that (1) it won’t work and (2) to the extent it does work, it will absolutely be abused.

We can. It just has a price we’re currently not willing to pay.

As a German who didn’t sleep during my history lesson I can tell you that is not always a good thing.

We already figured that one out: don’t allow tech to track us, and just use it for the rest.

Make it into an augmented reality mobile game.

“Coronamon, I don’t choose you!”

4 Likes

Hmph. And do I get a choice if my phone is loggable or not?

It doesn’t track location, it tracks self-assigned rolling IDs (the example they have is all IDs change every 15 minutes). Your phone will remember all the IDs it has used for the last (say) 14 days and uploads them on a big list of “Crap, if you have seen this ID go get tested!!”".

Everyone’s phone periodically goes to a server that has the “Crap, if you have seen this ID go get tested!!” list and says “I haven’t seen the list since X O’Clock, what is new?”, and then compares each ID on it to the list of IDs it has seen in the last 14 days. If it finds any matches it makes an unpleasant noise and tells you to go get tested right away and stay away from people until you do.

No where in there is a requirement to know where anyone was at any point except “near that guy! Oh god! Why did I do that!”

Yes, or more accurately tract contact between people, because that is what needs to be tracked.

Um, well, they do come right out and say it tracks contacts, which is what it does, so I’m not sure how anyone could expect that it doesn’t do that.

However it doesn’t track them in a way that is useful for say the government to decide I’m an “anti-Red-Cap” and decide they need to know who I was hanging out with and arrest them all. Or at least not directly. First they have no way to know what IDs I have assigned myself. So they would have to seize my phone, but as they do have police powers we should assume they can do that. Next they have to unlock it, but they have rubber hoses and arms to swing them, so we can assume that. Now they have a list of who I have called myself for the last 14 days…and of other self-assigned IDs. Still no good way to actually cover those to names of other “subversives”. At this point they could just tell the phone I have been infected and then all my contacts will be informed…and will probably come in for testing. Except I’m not sure how you then tell them from other people who were infected. I guess if you seize each phone of anyone who reports for testing so you can force it to divulge it’s own list of self assigned IDs? At any rate if you do that for long people will figure it out and stop using it.

Then you get an urgent message to go get tested when in fact the need is far less than urgent. Then you get tested and it comes out negative (or positive for a unrelated reason). It isn’t the end of the world as long as the false positive rate isn’t super high (tests cost money, human time & anxiety all has a cost). The goal is to minimize chances that people can be infected without knowing so we can limit the spread and try to be in something at least slightly more resembling normal life then a “stay at home” order until a vaccine is created (and tested and mass produced).

Well that makes the lack of any location data whatsoever and use of only self assigned identifiers a big plus.

7 Likes

No, we can’t. Killing people won’t help the economy.

As if they don’t track you now.

1 Like

Wow. Im deeply heartened by this approach.
Designing the API, and letting countries/states create their own apps, to fit their needs for privacy and to integrate with their own test reporting regime, is also smart.

1 Like
  • when you walk past someone, your phones write an anonymous graffiti tag on each other
  • if someone gets coronavirus, they tell the world “if you have one of these graffiti tags, you’ve been near an infected person”.

This is a very good idea which could save many lives and prevent us spending the next decade longing for the good times of the Great Depression. Let’s hope we don’t reject it purely because we’re more in love with incorrect third-hand fearmongering hot takes.

(I’m not hugely optimistic)

It’s important to note that a scheme like this becomes radically more effective as the adoption rate approaches 100%, so even a small number of people getting all tinfoil-hatted about it would do disproportionate harm.

Spec docs.

Bluetooth range is in the neighborhood of 50 feet. Coronavirus range is in the neighborhood of 6 feet. Square these numbers since we mostly travel in a 2d world. Ratio 2500:36 or about 69 times as many potential false positives per infected user.

End result likely most people will get a hit. Might be a good thing to get people rightly concerned but not for any real predictive value.

Normally, but with Bluetooth LE, you can turn down the transmitter power for a particular service, both for saving batteries, and for applications where you might not want the full range, like beacon apps which this basically is.

It doesn’t give an exact distance, because there are other variables than transmitter power, but will shrink it down to a more manageable area of coverage.