D H
May 8 · Last update 4 mo. ago.

Coronavirus vs privacy: Will tracing apps do more harm than good?

Tracing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is probably the best way for countries to stand a chance of controlling the viral outbreak. Contact tracing is already underway in the number of different countries and has shown a high degree of efficacy in countries that have handled the pandemic well, such as Singapore. However as more countries are rolling out their versions of contact tracing apps controversy has arisen around the issue of privacy, who handles the sensitive data, and even who gets to decide how these methods will work. Does using tracing apps on smart phones pose a risk to privacy? Will it be as effective as it is proposed to be? What are the best methods of contact tracing? Could contact tracing apps do more harm than good? bbc.com/news/world-asia-51866102
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The real problem of if they actually work
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Yes, both methods have issues
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No, but a decentralised app would address the issue of privacy
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No, a centralised app would be most effective
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The real problem of if they actually work

The debate between centralised and decentralised models of coronavirus track and trace apps, centring on which is more beneficial to a society, has overshadowed the real issue at hand in tracing COVID-19, whether or not the apps actually work. Pinning the hopes of accurate viral tracing on untested apps may have been naïve or just a gamble, especially for the many countries seemingly unwilling to conduct traditional viral tracing methods. While adequate viral tracing is important to understand the spread of the disease, it will be no means curb it directly, and countries should really focus on more direct methods such as mask distribution and education first.

Centralised and decentralised tracing apps alike have had issues with bluetooth technology, and with whether the tracing apps are able to accurately work in the background while the user is either using other apps or has their phone on standby. Likewise there is the complex battery issue, with certain apps not able to work in the background and thus draining a phones battery much faster, or in some other cases apps send too many pings (messages) to other devices also draining the users battery. On top of this there is the massive issue of user error, as these apps depend on adequate user charging and basic understanding of how the app works in order to even function. Not to mention the most glaring issue, that for any of these apps to work around 60% of the population, that’s around 80% of smartphone users, need to sign themselves up for being traced, and with trust in governments and tech companies being fairly low this is no easy feat.

forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2020/05/06/the-uks-covid-19-contact-tracing-app-everything-you-need-to-know/#1bf807a9da4d cpomagazine.com/data-privacy/centralized-or-decentralized-all-tracking-apps-fall-foul-of-the-same-vulnerability-user-error healthline.com/health-news/face-masks-importance-battle-with-covid19

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D H
Jul 19
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DH edited this paragraph
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2020/05/06/the-uks-covid-19-contact-tracing-app-everything-you-need-to-know/#1bf807a9da4d https://www.cpomagazine.com/data-privacy/centralized-or-decentralized-all-tracking-apps-fall-foul-of-the-same-vulnerability-user-error/ https://www.healthline.com/health-news/face-masks-importance-battle-with-covid19

Yes, both methods have issues

The question of who should be handling virus tracing app data comes down to a case of the lesser of two evils, but both are evil in the end. The example of the UK is especially interesting, as Apple and Google restricted the use of their application programming interface (API) to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) when they were attempting to develop their own tracing app. The tech giants acted in the name of user anonymity, advocating for decentralised apps; the NHS's own app eventually failed forcing them to adopt the decentralised model in order to use these tech companies established development toolkit. But this brings up a strange moral issue, who should gets to decide how the UK government’s tracing app will function?

In this case it seems that US tech firms have effectively chosen policy for the government and healthcare system of the UK. This has left many asking who are Apple and Google to restrict the use of their API from the UK's National Health Service. At the end of the day it comes down to a question of trust between government and tech firms, many of which on both sides have demonstrated questionable motives in the past, in this way these tracing apps are likely to do more harm than good. Furthermore contact tracing is thought to be fairly useless for countries that are slow to test, for slow-to-react countries like the UK the combination of traditional contact tracing along side the use of technology should take precedence, as it has been demonstrated more effective in countries such as South Korea. Saving money on app development could also be invested in better test regimens.

vox.com/recode/2020/4/18/21224178/covid-19-tech-tracking-phones-china-singapore-taiwan-korea-google-apple-contact-tracing-digital livescience.com/covid-19-contact-tracing-speedy-testing.html wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-1315_article?deliveryName=USCDC_333-DM33334

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D H
Jul 19
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DH edited this paragraph
The question of who should be handling virus tracing app data comes down to a case of the lesser of two evils, but both are evil in the end. The example of the UK is especially interesting, as Apple and Google restricted the use of their application programming interface (API) to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) when they were attempting to develop their own tracing app. The tech giants acted in the name of user anonymity, advocating for decentralised apps; the NHS's own app eventually failed forcing them to adopt the decentralised model in order to use these tech companies established development toolkit. But this brings up a strange moral issue, who should gets to decide how the UK government’s tracing app will function?

No, but a decentralised app would address the issue of privacy

Tracing apps open up an amazing possibility of making viral tracing cheaper and easier than the manual contact tracing that existed in the past. But this has also led to security concerns surrounding invasive use of the centralised app by governments or even hackers, prompting tech companies such as Apple and Google to develop decentralised contact tracing capabilities for their smart phone devices. The Apple and Google methods do not require the app to constantly wake up a Bluetooth receiver, saving battery life in a user's device and therefore making the system more workable and completely anonymous. Decentralised apps allow tracing to go ahead while respecting human rights.

This makes a decentralised model more workable in countries that value freedom and privacy, and have stricter laws accordingly. A government collecting huge amounts of data on citizens is potentially dangerous and amounts to intrusive surveillance. Critics of a centralised model have pointed out the possibility of higher numbers of spreading indicated by a user's app may be taken by a government as evidence of a person breaking lockdown procedures, and therefore report them to the police. Decentralised apps allow tracing to go ahead while respecting human rights.

theguardian.com/world/2020/may/03/covid-19-tracking-app-must-satisfy-human-rights-and-data-laws washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-cybersecurity-202/2020/05/05/the-cybersecurity-202-coronavirus-tracking-apps-spark-security-concerns/5eb05603602ff15fb00246d2 amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/04/contact-tracing-apps-privacy-in-europe

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D H
Jun 6
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DH edited this paragraph
This makes a decentralised model more workable in countries that value freedom and privacy, and have stricter laws accordingly. A government collecting huge amounts of data on citizens is potentially dangerous and amounts to intrusive surveillance. Critics of a centralised model have pointed out the possibility of higher numbers of spreading indicated by a user's app may be taken by a government as evidence of a person breaking lockdown procedures, and therefore report them to the police. Decentralised apps allow tracing to go ahead while respecting human rights.

No, a centralised app would be most effective

The practice of contact tracing is nothing new, but smart phone apps are now revolutionising this indispensable process aimed at reducing the spread of infection. When someone is diagnosed the list of contacts they have had can automatically be used to send messages and inform people that have come into close proximity with the patient that they need to quarantine or be tested. Two types of contact tracing apps have been proposed during COVID-19, centralised models that are held on central servers and decentralised models that rely on encrypted messaging on phones to maintain privacy.

The UK's National Health Service is producing its own app that, unlike the interface supported by Apple and Google, will be stored on a centralised server, enabling the NHS to link tracking data with user's identities and medical records. If using a decentralised model the NHS would be left with no way to link the tracing data to a named patient in their system and would therefore not be able to accurately map the spread, not knowing if contact tracing led to an effectively isolated patient, a false positive or even further spread of the virus. People that use smart phones are not the kind of people that really care all that much about their privacy, if they were they wouldn’t use service like Facebook that actively use and sell their data, this will therefore not be seen as a major infringement of privacy if it can effectively curb the virus.

news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-uk-contact-tracing-app-160602747.html npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/10/814129534/how-the-painstaking-work-of-contact-tracing-can-slow-the-spread-of-an-outbreak usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/04/21/millennials-personal-info-online/2087989

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D H
Jun 6
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DH edited this paragraph
https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-uk-contact-tracing-app-160602747.html https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/10/814129534/how-the-painstaking-work-of-contact-tracing-can-slow-the-spread-of-an-outbreak https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/04/21/millennials-personal-info-online/2087989/
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