When the coronavirus pandemic first started to spread out of China, each country had a different way of combating the disease. Some places closed their borders, some closed their borders partially. Some countries tested everyone, some tested those with symptoms. And others used a combination of methods to control transmission and spread. Either way you look at it though, the virus gave authorities around the world the best situation to exploit. As they say, never let a good pandemic go to waste.
Apple and Google
Four and a half months later, it’s becoming clear that “15 days to slow the spread” wasn’t going to be the end – it was the beginning. Now, with data corporations tracking your every move via mobile phones and personal assistants, two of the biggest tech companies in the US are coming together to track the spread of the virus. The way they’re going to do this is simple, via your phone. Apple and Google are planning on using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions to collect information on the people you come in contact with. Unlike with GPS, this technology wouldn’t be able to track your location, but it will still be cataloguing the people you come in contact with by “feeling out” the other phones around you. If you do test positive for coronavirus, the owners of those phones will be informed that they have been exposed. Something that makes security experts and big tech skeptics very worried.
They’re calling it contact-tracking. A method of tracking ingeniously couched in technical jargon, while making the layman feel safe. Right now, if someone tests positive for coronavirus, doctors will usually ask them to recall all the people and places they’ve been around in the last 2 weeks. While inefficient and slow, it keeps your privacy and meta data somewhat safe. You will also have to provide the contact info necessary and the hospitals have to alert the individuals or organizations which used to be the norm when it came to deadly viruses and bacteria.
Apple and Google are not overtly asking their customers however – they are building this contract-tracking ability directly into the operating systems of the phones (iOS and Android) that is expected to be up and running by mid-May 2021. Aside from the profound impact this will have on our lives, this is also the very same model China already has employed in their country, just not COVID specific. And I worry that it will only evolve into it without anyone noticing it’s oncome. Like a frog and a pot of water.