EU to pressure Tim Cook about privacy in Apple & Google's COVID-19 contact tracing

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in General Discussion
Regulators in Brussels have already talked with Google about the risks to privacy of its COVID-19 contract-tracing app, and are going to meet with Apple's Tim Cook over the same issues.

Contact Tracing
Illustration of the contact tracing solution.


Apple's collaboration with Google over a coronavirus contact tracing app is causing concern within the European Union, which is now pressing both companies to abide by EU privacy restrictions. Specifically, Thierry Breton, the European Union's single market commissioner, has said that Brussels will be scrutinizing how the service is rolled out.

According to the Financial Times, the EU's digital agency DG Connect will assess potential risks to privacy before Apple and Google's system can be introduced there.

"Contact tracing apps can be useful to limit the spread of the coronavirus," said Breton. "But their development and interoperability need to fully respect our values and privacy."

Breton has yet to speak with Tim Cook, although a meeting is scheduled, but he has had a half hour teleconference with Google. "I had a good and constructive exchange with [CEO] Sundar Pichai on this important matter," he said.

The EU is in the process of implementing a wide-ranging digital strategy, and has what it refers to as a "toolbox" which mandates when and how contact tracing can or cannot be allowed.

Bretton is pressing both Google and Apple to confirm that they will abide by this EU toolbox. Reportedly, Google's Pinchai has said the company will adhere to the EU's requirements even as it is "racing" to develop the system with Apple.

The system is to be a series of APIs that will allow iPhones and Android phones to help identify the spread of the virus through tracing the contacts that people have in daily life. Apple and Google gave as an example of how a person diagnosed with COVID-19 could allow his or her phone to upload details of who they have been in contact with. It would work by the people's phones exchanging information over Bluetooth.

Even as the two companies announced the plan for them to work together on this, privacy was foremost on Apple's mind. "Contact tracing can help slow the spread of COVID-19," said Tim Cook in a tweet, " and can be done without compromising user privacy."

An illustration of how and when users will receive a notification from the system.
An illustration of how and when users will receive a notification from the system.


As well as the EU's concerns, though, the app has been singled out by President Trump for praise but also unspecified constitutional concerns. And Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has said Apple and Google must "convince a rightfully skeptical public" about the security of the app.

Consequently, both Apple and Google have responded to concerns by elaborating on their plans. They explained that the data will be used solely by public health organizations, and that at every stage the system was being created on principles of "privacy, transparency, and user control."

Apple's collaboration with Google over this COVID-19 app follows its working with the CDC to create an app and website for public use, and also its assisting Stanford Medicine's first-responder screening tool.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    I can see the good with this technology but there is a whole lot of bad that can come out it. It creates the opportunity to track people and violate privacy on a new level. This can be abused on a massive scale - I'm sure the functionality can be added to existing apps...it's only code with the required hardware already built in to the phones
  • Reply 2 of 14
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    I hope Apple doesn't get dragged down for Google's dirty ass. Has happened before.

    Apple should have been honest and said "we shouldn't trust Google, because they make their money from your data" and opted out from an agreement. This is what I miss about Steve.
    qwerty52
  • Reply 3 of 14
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    I wish the EU would stay out of stuff they don't understand. EU 'input' is why I can't go to a website without filling in a cookie form.
  • Reply 4 of 14
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 642member
    Rayz2016 said:
    I wish the EU would stay out of stuff they don't understand. EU 'input' is why I can't go to a website without filling in a cookie form.
    Is there anyway to stop this? There needs to be a system in place to not require sites to ask if you have agreed to it once.
  • Reply 5 of 14
    There are a lot of users that do not care about privacy as much as the EU thinks they do. That is why Google and Android do well - trade away some of your privacy and your phone provides you (and advertisers) information and services tailored for 'you'. People have essentially given their consent to this - it is not that they are not informed. In the attempt to battle a virus trying to kill all of us, the EU wants to put controls that would make COVID exposure tracking inefficient and maybe inoperable? Hardly the battle the EU should be fighting in my opinion, but not really a surprise.
  • Reply 6 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,387member
    Beats said:
    I hope Apple doesn't get dragged down for Google's dirty ass. Has happened before.

    Apple should have been honest and said "we shouldn't trust Google, because they make their money from your data" and opted out from an agreement. This is what I miss about Steve.
    And thus you become part of the problem. You pay far too much attention to marketing speak and comments made for competition reasons, and have never bothered to look into how Advertising ID numbers work...
    like the ones both Apple and Google use. 
    CloudTalkinCarnage
  • Reply 7 of 14
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,887member
    Rayz2016 said:
    I wish the EU would stay out of stuff they don't understand. EU 'input' is why I can't go to a website without filling in a cookie form.
    Which bit doesn't the EU understand?

    The law involved was hammered out over a very long time and is seen as a model for other similar protections elsewhere. 

    Assuring compliance with legislation is an absolute must.
    fotoformatqwerty52
  • Reply 8 of 14
    robjnrobjn Posts: 283member
    Meanwhile the German officials tasked with implementing EU contact tracing are complaining that whilst they will use Apple and Google API for expediency, it is too private and they want to have more data.

    Specifically, they don’t like that Apple and Google’s system decentralizes data by keeping it on individual users phones. They would rather have all the data centralized in a single database that belongs to them.

    Most of the calls for Apple and Google to explain how the privacy can be preserved are coming from people that have no clue about the technology and have not bothered to read the documentation.

    I’m frequently hearing a criticism from ‘experts’ quoted in the media that fear the system could be trolled. Something along the lines of ‘little Johnny doesn’t want to go to school so he tells the app he is COVID-19 positive and the whole school gets shut down for weeks’. The fact is that the API is designed to be incorporated into apps built by local health authorities. The local health authorities will be responsible for entering or confirming positive test results.
  • Reply 9 of 14
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    “Contact tracing” is such a benign word to describe “spying” and “shunning”.
  • Reply 10 of 14
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,856member
    jimh2 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    I wish the EU would stay out of stuff they don't understand. EU 'input' is why I can't go to a website without filling in a cookie form.
    Is there anyway to stop this? There needs to be a system in place to not require sites to ask if you have agreed to it once.
    Like a ... cookie?
    gatorguyCarnage
  • Reply 11 of 14
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,955member
    “Contact tracing” is such a benign word to describe “spying” and “shunning”.
    Ignorance on parade again, I’m afraid. The term has existed and is specific to establishing spread history. It used to be done with telephone calls and interviews. Without adequate testing working hand in hand with contact tracing, you can’t contain spread and must instead revert to draconian lockdowns. And I can almost guarantee I know your position on that. So, contact tracing and testing it is. 

    Thankfully if you’re suicidal you can opt out. 
  • Reply 12 of 14
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,757member
    So, weeks ago, google volunteers information to governments to help with contact tracing using data harvested and monitored through android users, helping to track spread and contact of spring breakers in Florida...but when Apple gets involved and tried to make it more secure and private for users overall, that’s when Europe shows concern?

    smfh
  • Reply 13 of 14
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,535member
    What part of "opt in" do they not understand?
  • Reply 14 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,387member
    tulkas said:
    So, weeks ago, google volunteers information to governments to help with contact tracing using data harvested and monitored through android users, helping to track spread and contact of spring breakers in Florida...but when Apple gets involved and tried to make it more secure and private for users overall, that’s when Europe shows concern?

    smfh
    @tulkas Apple was already involved, "volunteering information harvested and monitored through Apple users". Oooh, and you were making it sound so shady. Now is it OK?

    Apple recently released a tool offering Mobility Trends reports that show changes in people’s commuting movements following social distancing guidelines. They generate the results using data collected through the Apple Maps app. The daily reports reveal the travel data of people driving, walking, and utilizing public transport since January this year based on location history from the use of your iPhone and millions of others. It's available for 63 countries too. Google's similar tool covers 180. 
    edited April 2020 Carnage
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