By Giacomo Martiradonna Sunday 12 April 2020
Apple and Google are working on a Contact Tracing technology that will allow us to study the spread of Coronavirus infections. But what are the privacy risks?
Apple and Google have teamed up to develop secure technology Contact Tracking ("Contact Tracing") which will allow you to understand how Coronavirus spreads, who are at risk, and finally to intervene promptly to prevent new infections. But how exactly it works, and above all, what are i privacy and security risks users?
iOS 15, no new Emojis due to Coronavirus
The new Emojis that should have debuted with iOS 15 have been postponed due to the Coronavirus. It will be discussed again in 6 months.
What is Contact Tracing
Since it is impossible to understand at a glance who is infected with COVID-19 and who is not, the new rules of social hygiene require – in doubt – to treat all as they were. And when it turns out that a virus carrier, we proceed with a manual interview to understand all the contacts he has had in the last 14 days; however, the practice of complex realization, and often forgetfulness creates gods holes in the reconstructions, leaving open the possibility of unexpected contagions.
Technology does not forget: thanks to the Bluetooth chip integrated in every smartphone present, past and future, the entire network of contacts had by each user can be reconstructed with adamantine precision; even those of short duration, like when you buy a newspaper on newsstands, or sit together on the metro.
How does Bluetooth Tracking work?
The Bluetooth chip constantly emits signals, one random series of numbers and letters called "chirps" ie "chirping." These chirps can be completely anonymized, while including within them key information such as: location, time spent in a place, distance relative to an infected person.
Each phone keeps a list of all the chirps sent; and if they swab you and it turns out you are positive for Covid-19, that list comes loaded into an anonymous databaseso that others can know if and when they came in contact with you. At no stage in this exchange of information is your identity ever revealed which remains secret. In this way, however, anyone who has been close to a known patient will find out, and can self-quarantine to avoid the spread of the infection.
What are the risks?
This technology on paper is certainly the most effective method we have at the moment to minimize the impact of the lockdown, and allow us to be able to circulate again. the same already in use in South Korea and Taiwan. But it poses serious problems privacy and security: who manages this database? How can we be sure that this data will not be used for other purposes? And what happens if they break the database? Theoretically, the data does not contain anything that can lead back to the user who generated it, and therefore anonymity should be guaranteed. But get to know: after the INPS mess with the click-day of the 600, we don't want it if we are a little worried.
Furthermore, in the countries where it has been used, it is often created unwarranted alarm in users: the fact of having been seated 5 minutes on the bus near an infected person does not necessarily mean that we have been infected.
Apple and Google are currently busy creating a international interoperable framework which will then be used to create the real Contact Tracing apps; likely every nation develop an ad hoc app, and in this way we should be able to track the movements of 3 billion people in the world. And regardless of how things will go, a certainty is now increasingly evident: nothing will really be like before.