Apple and Google must convince public that contact tracing is secure, senator says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2020
A U.S. senator says that Apple and Google still need to convince the public that their newly announced COVID-19 contact tracing app will respect user privacy and security.

The Apple and Google system will use Bluetooth to monitor a user's proximity to others, including those infected with COVID-19.
The Apple and Google system will use Bluetooth to monitor a user's proximity to others, including those infected with COVID-19.


On April 10, the two tech giants announced a partnership to develop and deploy a cross-platform mobile contact tracing technology that could help curb the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement to Reuters on Wednesday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said that the two companies "have a lot of work to do to convince a rightfully skeptical public that they are fully serious about the privacy and security of their contact tracing efforts."

Sen. Blumenthal and two other Democratic members of Congress previously raised concerns about White House-led efforts to collect Americans' health information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact tracing is a process to track the spread of a disease by building out a history of who an infected person has come into contact with over a period of time. The system devised by Apple and Google largely automates this process using short-range Bluetooth signals, secure local databases, anonymized device identifiers and other modern mobile technology.

Both companies have said that their contact tracing system, which will initially roll out as a framework for public health organizations to build apps upon, is being designed with "privacy, transparency and user control" in mind.

The technology will be completely voluntary at every stage and will take steps to protect user identities by using rotating Bluetooth identifiers and storing that data locally on a device until a person who tests positive for the disease opts to notify the system. In such a scenario, said person's device pushes out 14 days' worth of contact keys to a central server, which is subsequently pulled down by other devices taking part in the program. Positive broadcast beacons are cross-checked with locally stored contact lists and, if a match is found, the recipient is alerted that they recently came in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

Android and iOS contact tracing APIs are expected to be made available in May, while operating system-level integration is planned to follow.

Apple and Google detailed the system's privacy protections in a press briefing Monday.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    maltzmaltz Posts: 278member
    It seems like a good design from a privacy standpoint, though convincing politicians and the public of that might be a tall order.  But the biggest concern I have (other than likely low participation) is what's to prevent people from trolling the system and claiming they tested positive after racking up a bunch of contacts?  I haven't seen that addressed anywhere.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    maltz said:
    It seems like a good design from a privacy standpoint, though convincing politicians and the public of that might be a tall order.  But the biggest concern I have (other than likely low participation) is what's to prevent people from trolling the system and claiming they tested positive after racking up a bunch of contacts?  I haven't seen that addressed anywhere.
    That’s a good question. I know plenty of people who would think it was funny to cause some panic by claiming a false positive. Hopefully others have thought of that and there are some safeguards in place.

    Funny, though, about the privacy issues. I guarantee I know people that would raise that as an issue and refuse to use the app and then immediately open Facebook.

    Of course, getting more people to use the app is key to it actually working. Too bad this wasn’t 3 months earlier.
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 3 of 22
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,395member
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths. The same public that happily gives far more data on an hourly basis to FB, Twitter, and Google should not have a problem with anonymized contact tracing. I'm hopeful that America's community spirit (not as strong as it once was, sadly, but not extinct either) will rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.
    muthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 22
    Or, to paraphrase the politician's comment: "Apple and Google have to show us how we can make money off their efforts while simultaneously appearing to help the public."
  • Reply 5 of 22
    tommikeletommikele Posts: 511member
    No way
    chasm said:
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths. The same public that happily gives far more data on an hourly basis to FB, Twitter, and Google should not have a problem with anonymized contact tracing. I'm hopeful that America's community spirit (not as strong as it once was, sadly, but not extinct either) will rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.
    The answer is no. You actually believe them? Have you not learned anything over the last four years? Don’t do FB, Twitter, Google or any of them. Never have, never will.
  • Reply 6 of 22
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 394member
    chasm said:
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths ... rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.
    If the public simply had better awareness of keeping track of all that they touch with their hands/gloves and kept respectable distance from others, quarantine would be useless. Instead of encouraging and teaching the people to embrace personal responsibility, many of those governing are treating their people like babies (anyone who respects the MI ‘quarantine’ decisions needs to wake up...). Matters are made worse because those governing are making these restrictive decisions based on a woefully inadequate understanding of the virus and a media narrative that is itching to spread panic about it in order to get people to read their news.

    Something like the coronavirus will happen again, and we will be unprepared because we were never taught and given space to exercise personal responsibility and what that means. Trying to control the population will have limited short term success but widespread long term negative effects.
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 7 of 22
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 775member
    Big government won't like it because there is no back door.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,181member
    georgie01 said:
    chasm said:
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths ... rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.
    If the public simply had better awareness of keeping track of all that they touch with their hands/gloves and kept respectable distance from others, quarantine would be useless. Instead of encouraging and teaching the people to embrace personal responsibility, many of those governing are treating their people like babies (anyone who respects the MI ‘quarantine’ decisions needs to wake up...). Matters are made worse because those governing are making these restrictive decisions based on a woefully inadequate understanding of the virus and a media narrative that is itching to spread panic about it in order to get people to read their news.

    Something like the coronavirus will happen again, and we will be unprepared because we were never taught and given space to exercise personal responsibility and what that means. Trying to control the population will have limited short term success but widespread long term negative effects.
    If the public had better awareness of keeping track of all the vehicles, people, and pets around them and kept a respectable distance traffic laws would be useless. Instead of teaching people to embrace personal responsibility we treat them like babies. Accidents and traffic deaths will continue to happen and we will be unprepared because we were never taught...
  • Reply 9 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,181member
    tommikele said:
    No way
    chasm said:
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths. The same public that happily gives far more data on an hourly basis to FB, Twitter, and Google should not have a problem with anonymized contact tracing. I'm hopeful that America's community spirit (not as strong as it once was, sadly, but not extinct either) will rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.
    The answer is no. You actually believe them? Have you not learned anything over the last four years? Don’t do FB, Twitter, Google or any of them. Never have, never will.
    Over the last 4 years? I think Facebook and Twitter, Google and Apple, are older than that. 
  • Reply 10 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,302member
    chasm said:
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths. The same public that happily gives far more data on an hourly basis to FB, Twitter, and Google should not have a problem with anonymized contact tracing. I'm hopeful that America's community spirit (not as strong as it once was, sadly, but not extinct either) will rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.

    With the help of their major internet players, China and other countries initiated a voluntary QR code on user's phones:   based on a number of criteria the code can be red, amber or green:
    "Users with a red code have to go into government quarantine or self-quarantine for 14-days, users with an amber code will be quarantined for seven days, while users with a green code can move around the city freely, according to a statement issued by Hangzhou authorities.
    The health codes can also serve as a tracker for people's moves in public areas, as residents have their QR codes scanned as they enter public places. Once a confirmed case is diagnosed, authorities are able to quickly backtrack where the patient has been and identify people who have been in contact with that individual."


    While largely reopening their economy and manufacturing China reported only 46 new cases of the virus -- 2/3's of which were imported.
    It goes to show:  If you do the right things then the right things tend to happen.

    Instead of attacking them we should probably be asking them for help and expertise because, with almost 30,000 dead and climbing we ain't doing so well over here.


  • Reply 11 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    gatorguy said:
    tommikele said:
    No way
    chasm said:
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths. The same public that happily gives far more data on an hourly basis to FB, Twitter, and Google should not have a problem with anonymized contact tracing. I'm hopeful that America's community spirit (not as strong as it once was, sadly, but not extinct either) will rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.
    The answer is no. You actually believe them? Have you not learned anything over the last four years? Don’t do FB, Twitter, Google or any of them. Never have, never will.
    Over the last 4 years? I think Facebook and Twitter, Google and Apple, are older than that. 
    He’s referring to the US election. 
    edited April 2020 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 12 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,181member
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    tommikele said:
    No way
    chasm said:
    Like it or not, contact tracing -- along with mass-scale testing -- are the two things the US isn't doing that it really should be doing to prevent more infections and deaths. The same public that happily gives far more data on an hourly basis to FB, Twitter, and Google should not have a problem with anonymized contact tracing. I'm hopeful that America's community spirit (not as strong as it once was, sadly, but not extinct either) will rally around short(ish) term pain that will produce results that mean the US can get out of the quarantine state faster.
    The answer is no. You actually believe them? Have you not learned anything over the last four years? Don’t do FB, Twitter, Google or any of them. Never have, never will.
    Over the last 4 years? I think Facebook and Twitter, Google and Apple, are older than that. 
    He’s referring to the US election. 
    I doubt it since he says "don't do Facebook or Twitter or Google or any (read Apple) of them." Unless of course he's just tossing out two unrelated things and trying to somehow connect the whole shebang to the current administration. Looking at past posts for the OP that's possible I suppose. Hell Google's Sundar Pichai sure isn't a friend of the current President, never on the "invite list", and even if Mr Cook is I guarantee Apple won't be turning over user's data behind their backs just to make him happy. 

    So the OP (surely not you) suggest not to trust Apple and Google with what they say about contract tracing and thus encouraging its failure. I prefer to ignore the OP's scare tactics. Contact tracing is exactly what many of us here have been asking for and blaming the US for not yet doing. When it fails due to FUD like the OP's and others in this thread (and a couple of Senators) it'll be the "gubmints" fault I suppose, no personal responsibility.  
    edited April 2020 maltzbrometheus
  • Reply 13 of 22
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 947member
    Government: “We demand a back door past your encryption!”

    Government: “We need to make sure contact tracing is secure!”
  • Reply 14 of 22
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,765member
    hexclock said:
    Government: “We demand a back door past your encryption!”

    Government: “We need to make sure contact tracing is secure!”
    Yeah, responsible government in the information age is complicated.  Who would have thought?
  • Reply 15 of 22
    I trust Apple more then I trust the senators.  Google although has users security at best interest, I am not a Google fan.  But a Co-Op between Apple & Google, is probably more secure then anything the government can promise at this point.
    boxcatcher
  • Reply 16 of 22
    It must be a bummer to have to teach suspicious average joe about technology.

    I know plenty of people who still refuse to use Apple Pay, citing “I heard that...”, even though Apple Pay is unquestionably more secure than carrying and swiping a credit card (due to tokenization, encrypted transport, etc) ... all things that make average person’s eyes roll back into their heads.
  • Reply 17 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    No one could be adequately trusted with this information. Once it’s data, it can be hacked, backdoored, subpoenaed, leaked, etc.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    mytdavemytdave Posts: 447member
    Why? This is a service that is completely unnecessary.  #DoomedToFailure
  • Reply 19 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,181member
    No one could be adequately trusted with this information. Once it’s data, it can be hacked, backdoored, subpoenaed, leaked, etc.
    That's why it stays on your phone.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    gatorguy said:
    No one could be adequately trusted with this information. Once it’s data, it can be hacked, backdoored, subpoenaed, leaked, etc.
    That's why it stays on your phone.
    If you’re identifying people who have self-identified as sick with COVID, you’re using that data.
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