google coronavirus

Apple and Google Team Up For Coronavirus Tracing App, Sparking Privacy Concerns

The app will make it easier for individuals and public health officials to track the spread of COVID-19, but privacy rights groups are pushing for transparency.

In an unprecedented collaboration, Apple and Google are coming together to develop a Bluetooth-based app that would allow individuals (and health officials) to track if they have come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The practice of “contact tracing” is cited by public health officials as crucial in containing the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus so that people who have been in close proximity to an infected person can self-isolate and prevent others from becoming infected.

Now, the two tech companies are creating APIs for Android and iOS, Apple’s operating system, so that public health authorities can release official apps and access the data of people who consent to sharing their short-range Bluetooth communications, allowing the app to detect if they have been close to a person who reported having COVID-19.

“Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life,” the two companies announced last week.

The idea is to release app designs that will operate with apps from public health authorities by mid-May. Users will have the ability to download the app during this period, and the tech giants will work in the meantime to build contact tracing functionality into their operating systems so that it is available to everyone with an Apple or Android device.

While the move has been largely celebrated as a potential way to limit spread of the coronavirus and address the logistical challenges of contact tracing, there have been critiques from tech experts and civil liberties advocates. Many are wondering about the difficulties of getting a majority of Americans to download an app on their own, in addition to concerns about the reliability of Bluetooth signals and the effectiveness of tech contact tracing.

“It does seem like a passive system that works to inform people in those situations about potential exposures could offer at least some level of protection,” Casey Newton, a reporter at The Verge, wrote in his newsletter The Interface. “The question is whether the system ultimately generates more signal than noise — whether Bluetooth finds more true positives than false ones.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital privacy rights group, wrote that the apps developed by major tech companies to address the coronavirus crisis should provide and require safeguards for user privacy. Some of those guidelines include requiring consent for all data that is collected, minimizing the data that is collected to only what is necessary for the app to work, implementing stringent information security practices, and ending the app when it is not longer deemed necessary.

Transparency about how the government is using the data gathered from the app and how it will be stored will also go a long way in earning user trust, according to the EFF.

“COVID-19 is a worldwide crisis, one which threatens to kill millions and upend society, but history has shown that exceptions to civil liberties protections made in a time of crisis often persist much longer than the crisis itself,” an EFF blog post reads, adding: “Above all, even as we fight COVID-19, we must ensure that the word ‘crisis’ does not become a magic talisman that can be invoked to build new and ever more clever means of limiting people’s freedoms through surveillance.”

Jennifer Granick, the American Civil Liberties Union’s surveillance and cybersecurity counsel, said in a statement to TechCrunch that no contact tracing app will replace public health services like widespread testing, but Apple and Google have taken steps to address privacy concerns.

“To their credit, Apple and Google have announced an approach that appears to mitigate the worst privacy and centralization risks, but there is still room for improvement,” Granick said. “We will remain vigilant moving forward to make sure any contract tracing app remains voluntary and decentralized, and used only for public health purposes and only for the duration of this pandemic.”

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    Perimeter Security Standards for Multi-Site Businesses

    When you run or own a business that has multiple locations, it is important to set clear perimeter security standards. By doing this, it allows you to assess and mitigate any potential threats or risks at each site or location efficiently and effectively. Read Now

  • ISC West 2024 is a Rousing Success

    The 2024 ISC West security tradeshow marked a pivotal moment in the industry, showcasing cutting-edge technology and innovative solutions to address evolving security challenges. Exhibitors left the event with a profound sense of satisfaction, as they witnessed a high level of engagement from attendees and forged valuable connections with potential clients and partners. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • ISC West
  • Live From ISC West: Day 2

    What a great show ISC West 2024 has been so far. The second day on Thursday was as busy or even more hectic than the first. Remember to keep tabs on our Live From ISC West page for news and updates from the show floor at the Sands Expo, because there’s more news coming out than anyone could be expected to keep track of. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • ISC West
  • A Unique Perspective on ISC West 2024

    Navigating a tradeshow post-knee surgery can be quite the endeavor, but utilizing an electric scooter adds an interesting twist to the experience. While it may initially feel like a limitation, it actually provides a unique perspective on traversing through the bustling crowds and expansive exhibition halls. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • ISC West

Featured Cybersecurity

New Products

  • ComNet CNGE6FX2TX4PoE

    The ComNet cost-efficient CNGE6FX2TX4PoE is a six-port switch that offers four Gbps TX ports that support the IEEE802.3at standard and provide up to 30 watts of PoE to PDs. It also has a dedicated FX/TX combination port as well as a single FX SFP to act as an additional port or an uplink port, giving the user additional options in managing network traffic. The CNGE6FX2TX4PoE is designed for use in unconditioned environments and typically used in perimeter surveillance. 3

  • AC Nio

    AC Nio

    Aiphone, a leading international manufacturer of intercom, access control, and emergency communication products, has introduced the AC Nio, its access control management software, an important addition to its new line of access control solutions. 3

  • HD2055 Modular Barricade

    Delta Scientific’s electric HD2055 modular shallow foundation barricade is tested to ASTM M50/P1 with negative penetration from the vehicle upon impact. With a shallow foundation of only 24 inches, the HD2055 can be installed without worrying about buried power lines and other below grade obstructions. The modular make-up of the barrier also allows you to cover wider roadways by adding additional modules to the system. The HD2055 boasts an Emergency Fast Operation of 1.5 seconds giving the guard ample time to deploy under a high threat situation. 3