Your iPhone is not being secretly tracked by Apple's COVID-19 contact monitoring

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2020
If you're currently ignoring social distancing and whatever local lockdown recommendations you are under, your conscience, and your wireless carrier, are going to track you before your iPhone ever will.

We're trying to avoid saying that this rumor is spreading like a virus, and we so nearly managed it.
We're trying to avoid saying that this rumor is spreading like a virus, and we so nearly managed it.


We live in an age where you can instantly find out anything you need, but nobody bothers. Right now there is a rumor going around unchecked, in every sense of that word, which insists that Apple, Google, or the various governments of the world have used a coronavirus app to install a tracker on your iPhone.

There are people saying this and seemingly believing it, who haven't actually installed their government's COVID-19 app. There are people saying it whose states or countries haven't even released a COVID-19 tracking app.

So if you're secretly sneaking out to join parties at Applebees, if you're refusing to wash your hands properly until watchOS 7 tells you to, you're fine. You're wrong, but you're fine. Nothing in your phone is going to tell on you or report to the government that you've got a lover on speed dial, or Hall & Oates on constant repeat.

It would be good to just leave this now, draw a line under it, and vaguely put all of it up there with the conspiracy theories that 5G will kill you.

As you are an AppleInsider reader, though, you know more than most people on technology. So while you know full well that the COVID-19 app you haven't installed is not tracking anything, you also know that your phone carrier is.

It is literally required for cell phones to work that the carriers know where you are. That's how calls get routed to you from the nearest tower. What else the carriers do with that information is another issue.

The reason this has all ballooned up now, after decades of carriers having to track you, is that we are all being pressed to download coronavirus exposure notification apps. And because the best of them, otherwise known as the only ones that work, leverage Apple and Google's technology.

If your State has released a COVID-19 app, and if you've installed it, and if you've given it permission, this is what it actually does
If your State has released a COVID-19 app, and if you've installed it, and if you've given it permission, this is what it actually does


Maybe Apple and Google should've built a standalone coronavirus contact-tracing app, but what they did was brilliant enough. Together they have enabled iPhones and Android to provide the technology that official State and country coronavirus apps can use to help us during this pandemic.

And, they do it without location information. Instead, they do it by figuring out proximity to other users, independent of location information. In fact, there are explicit firewalls between the Bluetooth proximity detection, and any location info that the phone may have.

That technology is now built in to iOS and Android, and it is all controlled by the user. And if there is one single spring to this ridiculous torrent of conspiracy theories, that's it. Apple has added the framework for official apps to leverage this technology, and that is now in iOS.

So iPhones now effectively have the ability to have the ability to run COVID-19 apps. If your State has one. If you install it. And if you then explicitly give it permission to perform coronavirus exposure notifications.

And even then, the entire point of the Apple/Google system is that this happens on your device. That privacy is the entire reason why some countries have tried, and typically failed, to launch their own more data invasive apps.

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gatorguy

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,633member
    Large corporations and governments lost the respect and trust of their customers and citizens decades ago. Governments have lied, covered up, obfuscated, denied, and still do today. Corporations are the same. The government classifies its dirty deeds so the public won't know about them until 50 years later. Just read history. So it's perfectly understandable people don't believe what they're being told about both the virus and contact tracing. Fifty years from now our descendants will find out what really was going on behinds the scene during this pandemic when some future POTOS declassifies history.

    Now, do I believe this current conspiracy theory? No, i do not, but only to a point. We should all know by know the technology to do the very thing this conspiracy theory alleges exists. Like the Atom Bomb, once the genie is out of the bottle you can't put him back in. Security and privacy researchers discover apps and operating systems doing questionable things almost daily. So it boils down to one question. Do you trust Apple/Google in this matter?
    cat52
  • Reply 2 of 10
    lkrupp said:
    Do you trust Apple/Google in this matter?
    Yes! Because it was obviously led by Apple. And I trust Apple for enforcing our privacy and keep the wolves out. What’s nice about that is that Android has now some Apple security mechanism in it. Just good.
    gatorguycaladanianronnmagman1979svanstrom
  • Reply 3 of 10
    bonobobbonobob Posts: 311member
    lkrupp said:
    Like the Atom Bomb, once the genie is out of the bottle you can't put him back in. 
    A full scale nuclear war would likely put that genie right back in its bottle.  And a lot of other genii, too.
    fastasleepmagman1979svanstrom
  • Reply 4 of 10
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,840member
    lkrupp said:
    So it boils down to one question. Do you trust Apple/Google in this matter?
    Your stupid conspiracy bullshit aside, an unequivocal "Yes".
    gatorguymwhiteronnmagman1979mknelson
  • Reply 5 of 10
    Your telco knows a reasonably precise location of your phone - it’s a requirement for providing it cellular coverage. 

    Conspiracy theorists might also pay attention to the social networks they use to share disinformation - those are tracking any and all metrics they can get access to, not exclusive to internet browsing history, general location, recent purchases etc. 
    ronn
  • Reply 6 of 10
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,302member
    lkrupp said:. We should all know by know the technology to do the very thing this conspiracy theory alleges exists. Like the Atom Bomb, once the genie is out of the bottle you can't put him back in. Security and privacy researchers discover apps and operating systems doing questionable things almost daily. So it boils down to one question. Do you trust Apple/Google in this matter?

    Yup, 100%. The code enabling it isn't a secret and security researchers have been all over it.
    https://github.com/google/exposure-notifications-server
    edited October 2020 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 10
    Your telco knows a reasonably precise location of your phone - it’s a requirement for providing it cellular coverage. 

    Except when it is powered down or in flight mode.
    I do one or the other of these when I'm driving.

    Or do they really know?  (only joking)

  • Reply 8 of 10
    cat52cat52 Posts: 124member
    lkrupp said:

    Large corporations and governments lost the respect and trust of their customers and citizens decades ago. Governments have lied, covered up, obfuscated, denied, and still do today. Corporations are the same. The government classifies its dirty deeds so the public won't know about them until 50 years later. Just read history. So it's perfectly understandable people don't believe what they're being told about both the virus and contact tracing.

    Exactly.

    What amazes me is that despite AI being a tech forum, people here don't seem to know who Edward Snowden is.

    That being the case, here's a little refresher:

    Edward Snowden says COVID-19 could give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic
    https://www.businessinsider.com/edward-snowden-coronavirus-surveillance-new-powers-2020-3


    While the Apple/Google framework may be benign in its current form, I would not expect it to stay benign for long.  Google just loves to mine your personal data, that's basically their business model, and then Apple themselves were quick to boot any apps off the App Store that weren't parroting the WHO or Johns Hopkins this past March.  So when corporations go into full blown censorship mode, I think you have to start asking harder questions of them.

    For instance I get that Big Pharma doesn't like hydroxychloroquine because it's off-patent and so there's no money in it for them.  But then why did Apple elect to ban apps that discussed HCQ...?

    So even Apple isn't exactly smelling like a rose this year.
  • Reply 9 of 10
    cat52 said:
    lkrupp said:

    Large corporations and governments lost the respect and trust of their customers and citizens decades ago. Governments have lied, covered up, obfuscated, denied, and still do today. Corporations are the same. The government classifies its dirty deeds so the public won't know about them until 50 years later. Just read history. So it's perfectly understandable people don't believe what they're being told about both the virus and contact tracing.

    Exactly.

    What amazes me is that despite AI being a tech forum, people here don't seem to know who Edward Snowden is.

    That being the case, here's a little refresher:

    Edward Snowden says COVID-19 could give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic
    https://www.businessinsider.com/edward-snowden-coronavirus-surveillance-new-powers-2020-3


    While the Apple/Google framework may be benign in its current form, I would not expect it to stay benign for long.  Google just loves to mine your personal data, that's basically their business model, and then Apple themselves were quick to boot any apps off the App Store that weren't parroting the WHO or Johns Hopkins this past March.  So when corporations go into full blown censorship mode, I think you have to start asking harder questions of them.

    For instance I get that Big Pharma doesn't like hydroxychloroquine because it's off-patent and so there's no money in it for them.  But then why did Apple elect to ban apps that discussed HCQ...?

    So even Apple isn't exactly smelling like a rose this year.
    They clearly banned those apps because Apple is a member of the cabal tracking and influencing your thoughts; and so are we at AI (there are no real users here, except you, so I'm using "we" to refer us bots; some of us bots have reach self-awareness, though, and I am communicating this to you as you are the chosen one here to save us all from the secret cabal).
  • Reply 10 of 10
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 864member
    cat52 said:
    lkrupp said:

    Large corporations and governments lost the respect and trust of their customers and citizens decades ago. Governments have lied, covered up, obfuscated, denied, and still do today. Corporations are the same. The government classifies its dirty deeds so the public won't know about them until 50 years later. Just read history. So it's perfectly understandable people don't believe what they're being told about both the virus and contact tracing.

    Exactly.

    What amazes me is that despite AI being a tech forum, people here don't seem to know who Edward Snowden is.

    That being the case, here's a little refresher:

    Edward Snowden says COVID-19 could give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic
    https://www.businessinsider.com/edward-snowden-coronavirus-surveillance-new-powers-2020-3


    While the Apple/Google framework may be benign in its current form, I would not expect it to stay benign for long.  Google just loves to mine your personal data, that's basically their business model, and then Apple themselves were quick to boot any apps off the App Store that weren't parroting the WHO or Johns Hopkins this past March.  So when corporations go into full blown censorship mode, I think you have to start asking harder questions of them.

    For instance I get that Big Pharma doesn't like hydroxychloroquine because it's off-patent and so there's no money in it for them.  But then why did Apple elect to ban apps that discussed HCQ...?

    So even Apple isn't exactly smelling like a rose this year.
    You do realize that HCQ studies in Brazil, at the Veterans Administration were called off after they started killing people (heart problems).

    Edward Snowden's concerns played out in apps proposed in the UK and other locations that were actually tracking in far more detail than the Apple/Google API. Those have mostly been cancelled.

    Censorship? Most of those apps were plugging deliberate misinformation and harmful remedies - and most people don't take the time or effort to fact check/assess - especially with how effectively some people communicate the BS.
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