Apple and Google pressured to block unofficial contact tracing apps

Posted:
in General Discussion
New York's Attorney General wants Apple and Google to limit all coronavirus contact tracing apps except those developed by public health agencies.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is concerned about the number of unofficial coronavirus apps on the App Store
New York Attorney General Letitia James is concerned about the number of unofficial coronavirus apps on the App Store


New York Attorney General Letitia James has written to both Apple and Google expressing what she calls continued concerns over the number of unofficial coronavirus contact tracing apps that are now on both the App Store and Google Play.

Writing to Apple senior vice president and general counsel Katherine L. Adams, James welcomes the company's "efforts to address the privacy and implementation concerns" that she has previously discussed with them. However, according to James in her letter, Apple has told her there are issues that it will not dictate to app developers. Specifically:
How the apps will verify the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnoses that the apps use to trigger exposure notifications.

Specific parameters for defining an "exposure notification" event (developers will use time and distance variables within a certain range).

James wants to "ensure that both exposure notification apps and contact tracing apps protect user information," and asks Apple to take certain "additional steps." These are concerned chiefly with who can develop apps, and then what those developers can do with the information users provide them.

She chiefly wants Apple to "allow only public health authorities verified by Apple" to be allowed to "make such apps available on the App Store." However, this is specifically about apps that transmit personal health information, so James is not seeking to ban apps that provide other information "such as notifications about exposure."

Beyond this, James says that Apple should "bar developers... from using data from the app to identify users," and from "using targeted advertising or in-app sales."

Attorney General James has sent an almost identical letter to Google's chief legal officer, Kent Walker.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,238member
    New York's Attorney General wants Apple and Google to limit all coronavirus contact tracing apps except those developed by public health agencies.

    New York Attorney General Letitia James is concerned about the number of unofficial coronavirus apps on the App Store
    New York Attorney General Letitia James is concerned about the number of unofficial coronavirus apps on the App Store


    New York Attorney General Letitia James has written to both Apple and Google expressing what she calls continued concerns over the number of unofficial coronavirus contact tracing apps that are now on both the App Store and Google Play.

    Writing to Apple senior vice president and general counsel Katherine L. Adams, James welcomes the company's "efforts to address the privacy and implementation concerns" that she has previously discussed with them. However, according to James in her letter, Apple has told her there are issues that it will not dictate to app developers. Specifically:
    How the apps will verify the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnoses that the apps use to trigger exposure notifications.

    Specific parameters for defining an "exposure notification" event (developers will use time and distance variables within a certain range).

    James wants to "ensure that both exposure notification apps and contact tracing apps protect user information," and asks Apple to take certain "additional steps." These are concerned chiefly with who can develop apps, and then what those developers can do with the information users provide them.

    She chiefly wants Apple to "allow only public health authorities verified by Apple" to be allowed to "make such apps available on the App Store." However, this is specifically about apps that transmit personal health information, so James is not seeking to ban apps that provide other information "such as notifications about exposure."

    Beyond this, James says that Apple should "bar developers... from using data from the app to identify users," and from "using targeted advertising or in-app sales."

    Attorney General James has sent an almost identical letter to Google's chief legal officer, Kent Walker.

    I don't get it:  with background bluetooth blocked, the only apps we have in this country are evolved from the Apple - Google thingee that only provide "notifications about exposure".
    Is she complaining about the names of apps -- like where even the original Apple-Google app was originally called a contact tracer (until the name was corrected to reflect the fact that it was merely an exposure notification system)

    But, her main point is correct:   More than a single contact tracer waters down all the others and makes each less effective.   That's dumb.  It defeats their purpose.

    We saw the importance of effective contact tracing this week in China:  When they had an outbreak of 57 cases in Beijing they quickly pinpointed the source:  a single wholesale grocer.   So, now they can perform a focused testing program to identify all who may have been infected and block any further spread of the virus.  That's what a high quality contact tracing system can do to protect society form this scurge.
  • Reply 2 of 11
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 
  • Reply 3 of 11
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 757member
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 
    Apple and Google agreed to limit only those apps using their jointly developed API. 

    The request by NY is in a different class. These are just app developers implementing their own notification systems. 

    This begs the issue. There are attempts by many entities to weaken Apple’s control, such as it is, of apps going into their App Store — unfair competition, monopolistic practices, etc. NY’s request plays into those issues quite directly.

    Apple doesn’t have governmental powers, and I have a problem with governments demanding that Apple take over that role. 

    And, given what we know about computer algorithms, deciding if a notification program violates privacy rules is decidedly undecidable. 
  • Reply 4 of 11
    larryjw said:
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 
    Apple and Google agreed to limit only those apps using their jointly developed API. 

    The request by NY is in a different class. These are just app developers implementing their own notification systems. 

    This begs the issue. There are attempts by many entities to weaken Apple’s control, such as it is, of apps going into their App Store — unfair competition, monopolistic practices, etc. NY’s request plays into those issues quite directly.

    Apple doesn’t have governmental powers, and I have a problem with governments demanding that Apple take over that role. 

    And, given what we know about computer algorithms, deciding if a notification program violates privacy rules is decidedly undecidable. 
    Ahhhh, you're right.  I was misreading it, and assumed a narrower focus than she probably meant.

    And "decidedly undecidable" is certainly an apt description.
  • Reply 5 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,238member
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 

    Apple does not have a contact tracing app.   The closest it comes is a voluntary exposure notification thingee that essentially worthless to public health agencies trying to protect the public.
  • Reply 6 of 11
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,058member
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 

    Apple does not have a contact tracing app.   The closest it comes is a voluntary exposure notification thingee that essentially worthless to public health agencies trying to protect the public.
    Apple has this?

    No. Apple and Google have jointly implemented an API in their OSen that allows specifically authorised apps to use Bluetooth's Low Energy Secure Connection protocol in the background to detect proximity of other users running said authorised app and duration of the encounter, and to communicate securely with a server. 

    There may be useless implementations of such apps, I suppose, but here in Germany, where an official app has been available since Tuesday, this means that, as soon as someone is tested positive for COVID-19, he can report this to the app, and it will immediately notify all other users who have been in possibly infectious proximity within the last few weeks (including travellers on public transport or fellow patrons of particular stores or whatever, whom we would have no chance whatsoever of tracking down through traditional means), so that they can self-quarantine and get tested themselves. In countries where infection numbers are dropping (not the US), this may help to eradicate the virus by breaking just enough infection chains to stop further outbreaks as we slowly open things up again. At the very least, it should help keep things at bay until we have effective treatment and/or a vaccine, should that ever happen.
    edited June 2020 gatorguy
  • Reply 7 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,238member
    spheric said:
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 

    Apple does not have a contact tracing app.   The closest it comes is a voluntary exposure notification thingee that essentially worthless to public health agencies trying to protect the public.
    Apple has this?

    No. Apple and Google have jointly implemented an API in their OSen that allows specifically authorised apps to use Bluetooth's Low Energy Secure Connection protocol in the background to detect proximity of other users running said authorised app and duration of the encounter, and to communicate securely with a server. 

    There may be useless implementations of such apps, I suppose, but here in Germany, where an official app has been available since Tuesday, this means that, as soon as someone is tested positive for COVID-19, he can report this to the app, and it will immediately notify all other users who have been in possibly infectious proximity within the last few weeks (including travellers on public transport or fellow patrons of particular stores or whatever, whom we would have no chance whatsoever of tracking down through traditional means), so that they can self-quarantine and get tested themselves. In countries where infection numbers are dropping (not the US), this may help to eradicate the virus by breaking just enough infection chains to stop further outbreaks as we slowly open things up again. At the very least, it should help keep things at bay until we have effective treatment and/or a vaccine, should that ever happen.

    I would say, from a public health standpoint, it is useless.   The analogy might be vaccinating 20% of a population, it might, maybe slow it down a bit, but it won't protect the population.

    The public would have been better served and better protected if Apple (and Google) had opened up bluetooth to run in the background so an actual contact tracing app could have been developed -- and the German people, and others, better protected.
  • Reply 8 of 11
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,827member
    spheric said:
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 

    Apple does not have a contact tracing app.   The closest it comes is a voluntary exposure notification thingee that essentially worthless to public health agencies trying to protect the public.
    Apple has this?

    No. Apple and Google have jointly implemented an API in their OSen that allows specifically authorised apps to use Bluetooth's Low Energy Secure Connection protocol in the background to detect proximity of other users running said authorised app and duration of the encounter, and to communicate securely with a server. 

    There may be useless implementations of such apps, I suppose, but here in Germany, where an official app has been available since Tuesday, this means that, as soon as someone is tested positive for COVID-19, he can report this to the app, and it will immediately notify all other users who have been in possibly infectious proximity within the last few weeks (including travellers on public transport or fellow patrons of particular stores or whatever, whom we would have no chance whatsoever of tracking down through traditional means), so that they can self-quarantine and get tested themselves. In countries where infection numbers are dropping (not the US), this may help to eradicate the virus by breaking just enough infection chains to stop further outbreaks as we slowly open things up again. At the very least, it should help keep things at bay until we have effective treatment and/or a vaccine, should that ever happen.

    I would say, from a public health standpoint, it is useless.   The analogy might be vaccinating 20% of a population, it might, maybe slow it down a bit, but it won't protect the population.

    The public would have been better served and better protected if Apple (and Google) had opened up bluetooth to run in the background so an actual contact tracing app could have been developed -- and the German people, and others, better protected.
    Like the contact tracing app Australia implemented based on Singapore's TraceTogether protocol? That one personally identifies the infected. Last month it helped thwart one single instance. 

    If people won't use it then it's not effective. The most effective contract tracing methods are mandatory such as those in China and South Korea. The Chinese people have no choice other than just accept it. That is China. It's not a patriotic thing, it's all they've known. 

    Not even you, patriotic George, will commit to accepting what they require will you? Armbands and gps trackers, credit card purchase logging and tracking, police cameras on most streets, an assortment of other George-tracking methods, military-enforced embargoes/lockdowns on various regions? Heck look no further than the uproar over National Guard forces locking down certain areas due to the recent riots. That makes "like China" or "like South Korea" a non-starter doesn't it? You don't like using Google because it "knows who you are" even if you can get far more relevant results, personally benefit, if Google knows who George is.

    IMO People will avoid a government offered app requiring personal data collection and identity for the same reason if given a choice. Faux news and faux arguments both have the same benefits, none, and that's what you do implying we in the West should do like China does. You're employing a Faux talking point.  
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,238member
    gatorguy said:
    spheric said:
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 

    Apple does not have a contact tracing app.   The closest it comes is a voluntary exposure notification thingee that essentially worthless to public health agencies trying to protect the public.
    Apple has this?

    No. Apple and Google have jointly implemented an API in their OSen that allows specifically authorised apps to use Bluetooth's Low Energy Secure Connection protocol in the background to detect proximity of other users running said authorised app and duration of the encounter, and to communicate securely with a server. 

    There may be useless implementations of such apps, I suppose, but here in Germany, where an official app has been available since Tuesday, this means that, as soon as someone is tested positive for COVID-19, he can report this to the app, and it will immediately notify all other users who have been in possibly infectious proximity within the last few weeks (including travellers on public transport or fellow patrons of particular stores or whatever, whom we would have no chance whatsoever of tracking down through traditional means), so that they can self-quarantine and get tested themselves. In countries where infection numbers are dropping (not the US), this may help to eradicate the virus by breaking just enough infection chains to stop further outbreaks as we slowly open things up again. At the very least, it should help keep things at bay until we have effective treatment and/or a vaccine, should that ever happen.

    I would say, from a public health standpoint, it is useless.   The analogy might be vaccinating 20% of a population, it might, maybe slow it down a bit, but it won't protect the population.

    The public would have been better served and better protected if Apple (and Google) had opened up bluetooth to run in the background so an actual contact tracing app could have been developed -- and the German people, and others, better protected.
    Like the contact tracing app Australia implemented based on Singapore's TraceTogether protocol? That one personally identifies the infected. Last month it helped thwart one single instance. 

    If people won't use it then it's not effective. The most effective contract tracing methods are mandatory such as those in China and South Korea. The Chinese people have no choice other than just accept it. That is China. It's not a patriotic thing, it's all they've known. 

    Not even you, patriotic George, will commit to accepting what they require will you? Armbands and gps trackers, credit card purchase logging and tracking, police cameras on most streets, an assortment of other George-tracking methods, military-enforced embargoes/lockdowns on various regions? Heck look no further than the uproar over National Guard forces locking down certain areas due to the recent riots. That makes "like China" or "like South Korea" a non-starter doesn't it? You don't like using Google because it "knows who you are" even if you can get far more relevant results, personally benefit, if Google knows who George is.

    IMO People will avoid a government offered app requiring personal data collection and identity for the same reason if given a choice. Faux news and faux arguments both have the same benefits, none, and that's what you do implying we in the West should do like China does. You're employing a Faux talking point.  

    Your political ideology has killed more Americans than any terrorist or the cumulative total dead from all of our wars since WW-II.
  • Reply 10 of 11
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,827member
    gatorguy said:
    spheric said:
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 

    Apple does not have a contact tracing app.   The closest it comes is a voluntary exposure notification thingee that essentially worthless to public health agencies trying to protect the public.
    Apple has this?

    No. Apple and Google have jointly implemented an API in their OSen that allows specifically authorised apps to use Bluetooth's Low Energy Secure Connection protocol in the background to detect proximity of other users running said authorised app and duration of the encounter, and to communicate securely with a server. 

    There may be useless implementations of such apps, I suppose, but here in Germany, where an official app has been available since Tuesday, this means that, as soon as someone is tested positive for COVID-19, he can report this to the app, and it will immediately notify all other users who have been in possibly infectious proximity within the last few weeks (including travellers on public transport or fellow patrons of particular stores or whatever, whom we would have no chance whatsoever of tracking down through traditional means), so that they can self-quarantine and get tested themselves. In countries where infection numbers are dropping (not the US), this may help to eradicate the virus by breaking just enough infection chains to stop further outbreaks as we slowly open things up again. At the very least, it should help keep things at bay until we have effective treatment and/or a vaccine, should that ever happen.

    I would say, from a public health standpoint, it is useless.   The analogy might be vaccinating 20% of a population, it might, maybe slow it down a bit, but it won't protect the population.

    The public would have been better served and better protected if Apple (and Google) had opened up bluetooth to run in the background so an actual contact tracing app could have been developed -- and the German people, and others, better protected.
    Like the contact tracing app Australia implemented based on Singapore's TraceTogether protocol? That one personally identifies the infected. Last month it helped thwart one single instance. 

    If people won't use it then it's not effective. The most effective contract tracing methods are mandatory such as those in China and South Korea. The Chinese people have no choice other than just accept it. That is China. It's not a patriotic thing, it's all they've known. 

    Not even you, patriotic George, will commit to accepting what they require will you? Armbands and gps trackers, credit card purchase logging and tracking, police cameras on most streets, an assortment of other George-tracking methods, military-enforced embargoes/lockdowns on various regions? Heck look no further than the uproar over National Guard forces locking down certain areas due to the recent riots. That makes "like China" or "like South Korea" a non-starter doesn't it? You don't like using Google because it "knows who you are" even if you can get far more relevant results, personally benefit, if Google knows who George is.

    IMO People will avoid a government offered app requiring personal data collection and identity for the same reason if given a choice. Faux news and faux arguments both have the same benefits, none, and that's what you do implying we in the West should do like China does. You're employing a Faux talking point.  

    Your political ideology has killed more Americans than any terrorist or the cumulative total dead from all of our wars since WW-II.
    You just never give straight answers, this time dishonestly trying to change the discussion to something that reflects less on George and totally unrelated to the discussion. You Are you too afraid to answer even one? I would have assumed you were far more secure with the details of what you believe and willing to support them. Instead you off the rails and pivot to painting the questioner with a faux brush to take the focus off yourself. 

    So this one single question doesn't require rocket science George, just an honest hand.
    Are you advocating that the US employ China-style tracking to control Covid-19, which factually requires new national laws rolling back certain personal liberties, new monitoring authority, and a revised legal understanding on military troop deployment on US soil and the authority they have? There's no confusing words in the question. 
    edited June 2020
  • Reply 11 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,238member
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    spheric said:
    Wait, I thought Apple had already decided to do this very thing.  Did I misunderstand, or did Apple back off?  Or does the NY AG mean only government sponsored entities when she speaks of "public health agencies"? 

    Apple does not have a contact tracing app.   The closest it comes is a voluntary exposure notification thingee that essentially worthless to public health agencies trying to protect the public.
    Apple has this?

    No. Apple and Google have jointly implemented an API in their OSen that allows specifically authorised apps to use Bluetooth's Low Energy Secure Connection protocol in the background to detect proximity of other users running said authorised app and duration of the encounter, and to communicate securely with a server. 

    There may be useless implementations of such apps, I suppose, but here in Germany, where an official app has been available since Tuesday, this means that, as soon as someone is tested positive for COVID-19, he can report this to the app, and it will immediately notify all other users who have been in possibly infectious proximity within the last few weeks (including travellers on public transport or fellow patrons of particular stores or whatever, whom we would have no chance whatsoever of tracking down through traditional means), so that they can self-quarantine and get tested themselves. In countries where infection numbers are dropping (not the US), this may help to eradicate the virus by breaking just enough infection chains to stop further outbreaks as we slowly open things up again. At the very least, it should help keep things at bay until we have effective treatment and/or a vaccine, should that ever happen.

    I would say, from a public health standpoint, it is useless.   The analogy might be vaccinating 20% of a population, it might, maybe slow it down a bit, but it won't protect the population.

    The public would have been better served and better protected if Apple (and Google) had opened up bluetooth to run in the background so an actual contact tracing app could have been developed -- and the German people, and others, better protected.
    Like the contact tracing app Australia implemented based on Singapore's TraceTogether protocol? That one personally identifies the infected. Last month it helped thwart one single instance. 

    If people won't use it then it's not effective. The most effective contract tracing methods are mandatory such as those in China and South Korea. The Chinese people have no choice other than just accept it. That is China. It's not a patriotic thing, it's all they've known. 

    Not even you, patriotic George, will commit to accepting what they require will you? Armbands and gps trackers, credit card purchase logging and tracking, police cameras on most streets, an assortment of other George-tracking methods, military-enforced embargoes/lockdowns on various regions? Heck look no further than the uproar over National Guard forces locking down certain areas due to the recent riots. That makes "like China" or "like South Korea" a non-starter doesn't it? You don't like using Google because it "knows who you are" even if you can get far more relevant results, personally benefit, if Google knows who George is.

    IMO People will avoid a government offered app requiring personal data collection and identity for the same reason if given a choice. Faux news and faux arguments both have the same benefits, none, and that's what you do implying we in the West should do like China does. You're employing a Faux talking point.  

    Your political ideology has killed more Americans than any terrorist or the cumulative total dead from all of our wars since WW-II.
    You just never give straight answers, this time dishonestly trying to change the discussion to something that reflects less on George and totally unrelated to the discussion. You Are you too afraid to answer even one? I would have assumed you were far more secure with the details of what you believe and willing to support them. Instead you off the rails and pivot to painting the questioner with a faux brush to take the focus off yourself. 

    So this one single question doesn't require rocket science George, just an honest hand.
    Are you advocating that the US employ China-style tracking to control Covid-19, which factually requires new national laws rolling back certain personal liberties, new monitoring authority, and a revised legal understanding on military troop deployment on US soil and the authority they have? There's no confusing words in the question. 

    Your political ideology has killed more Americans than any terrorist or the cumulative total dead from all of our wars since WW-II.
    You have to live with that on your conscience.   Not me.
    You might consider reflecting on the error of your ways.    But Trumpers are typically too thick headed and too brainwashed to do anything but drink more bleach.

    edited June 2020
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