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It’s all about the data

There is an excellent article from from the economist talking about how government is using technology to track us to manage the virus

These apps, that people have been criticising China for , are being used to control the virus.

Google, Facebook.apple, tiktok, tencent  and a myriad of other apps can trace your activities and habits …. and because advertisers will pay to tailor ads these companies make money .

Modellers can use data from both kinds of company to fine-tune predictions of the spread of disease.

It’s a case of big brother watching you ….. so, whose big brother?

In Singapore 

How Trace Together is helping contain the virus in Singapore

TraceTogether was released on March 20th it has been downloaded by 735,000 people, or 13% of the population, 

TraceTogether has been designed by the Singapore government which can retrospectively identify close-ish contacts of people who come down with covid-19.

How it works

When two users of this new app, called TraceTogether, are within two metres of each other their phones get in touch via Bluetooth. If the propinquity lasts for 30 minutes both phones record the encounter in an encrypted memory cache. When someone with the app is diagnosed with the virus, or identified as part of a cluster, the health ministry instructs them to empty their cache to the contact-tracers, who decrypt it and inform the other party. It is especially useful for contacts between people who do not know each other, such as fellow travellers on a bus, or theatre-goers.

In China

Start with an app that sends coherent health and travel data to a central registry, as China’s Health Check purports to. Then add sufficiently smart and powerful number-crunching for the system to be able to find all the places where two people’s histories cross. When someone gets sick, the system can then alert all the other users whose paths that user crossed.

For this to happen – there needs to be a collation of data 

In Korea

The system allowing contract tracers to pull data in automatically through a “smart city” dashboard collating information on those who tested positive – and their families and workers. This data-request system was put into operation on March 16th. Korean news reports say that the automation has reduced contact-tracing time from 24 hours to ten minutes.

In Israel

On March 16th Israel’s government authorised Shin Bet, the internal security service, and the police to use their technical know-how to track and access the mobile phones of those who have been infected.

In Australia

Last night the Australian government released an App to track the virus and share information.

435,000 people have downloaded so far , and the PM is encouraging all to download it .

The war on Data

The use of data becomes dangerous when it moves beyond direct tracking of individuals for the purpose of fighting the virus.

Has this war on privacy been lost years ago? 

Posted on March 29, 2020

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