Google, Apple tighten protections on contact tracing; Americans worry over privacy – Digitalmunition

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Published on April 28th, 2020 📆 | 7264 Views ⚑


Google, Apple tighten protections on contact tracing; Americans worry over privacy

As the likes of Google and Apple bolster privacy in the race to come up with contact tracing apps to get a handle on the spread of COVID-19, Americans are placing a premium on safeguarding their data with only 27 percent in one study saying they would give permission to an app to track their location.

Apple and Google have fast-tracked development of an API that can be used to build Bluetooth-based contact tracking app, which they’re now soft-pedaling as an “exposure notification” tool. The companies plan to release the API on schedule in May and offer a platform intended exclusively for public health agencies to develop apps in the next couple of months.

The duo released details of measures they’ve taken to ensure privacy, including limiting the time that devices should be in close proximity to exchange keys to 30 minutes and encrypting device metadata.

Google and Apple have agreed “to collect analytics from people’s dynamics in order to feed their epidemiology models to achieve two things: keep people aware of possible exposure to someone infected and predict how and where the curve of infection may develop,” said Gonzalo Raposo, tech manager at Globant, who noted that using technology to track dynamics in society has been successful. “There are still challenges to overcome, but this first step sounds promising.”

The latest steps to ensure privacy are intended to allay growing fears that contact tracing apps will expose users or be misused. A large majority of Americans – 89 percent – said they support or strongly support privacy rights, a survey found. The number of those willing to let an app display location if they were infected ticked up to 30 percent but most – 79 percent – worried that the government wouldn’t continue to use what they consider intrusive tracking measures well after the pandemic has been quashed.

Rights groups like the ACLU have stressed that coronavirus tracing apps should be limited to the confines of the current pandemic, with the APIs expiring once the health emergency has ended, and have cautioned against the development of general purpose apps that aiming to track any illness that might crop up.

Despite the promise of the Apple/Google initiative, the BBC said the U.K.’s NHS has nixed the plans in favor of a centralized contact tracing model instead, raising privacy concerns.

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