Privacy vs Pandemic: What are your thoughts on contact tracing, and the general tradeoffs between safety and privacy?

AndyBauch's avatar
3 years ago

This isn't a typical privacy/safety tradeoff and it does us a disservice to talk about the exposure notification technology they have developed in clickbait terms like, "Google and Apple want to know where you are going and are sharing this data with the government."

The method Google/Apple are using to contact trace is very unlikely to compromise privacy. GPS Location is not tracked, just the strength of a Bluetooth signal emitted by other folks using the service, and whether you have covid symptoms. Personally identifiable information is not sent to the server, just enough to inform people if they've been in contact with someone long enough to be at risk (as determined by Bluetooth signal strength and exposure time).

No security is foolproof, butI think it's unlikely someone will be able to de-identify the data and/or tie the data back to physical locations.

The public health departments who will launch apps using the technology do not have access to personally identifiable data or location data. Please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this:

This technology is very different from how Google and Facebook's consumer services mine your location and social behavior. Even Capiche can easily tell where I am posting this message by geo-locating my IP address.

You could argue that when you are sharing your key/covid status with the Exposure Notification server Google/Apple might store your IP address and make it possible to geo-locate you, but given their statement I doubt they want to poke that bear:

"This system does not collect location data from your device, and does not share the
identities of other users to each other, Google or Apple. The user controls all data they want to share, and the decision to share it."

Our governments have hundreds of methods of tracking us. If we want to worry about it, this method should be low on our list of concerns, despite how much the media loves talking about it.

5 points
pendolino's avatar
@pendolino (replying to @AndyBauch )
3 years ago

I'm impressed (though not surprised) with this innovative and swift implementation of something so useful that can maintain privacy while hugely serving the public good. Hats off to the team behind it!

1 point
NBNite's avatar
3 years ago

I think @AndyBauch hit this one spot on - the systems discussed/set-up thus far are highly unlikely to compromise the average person's privacy more than many of the things they already do. And as Andy mentioned, the government already has plenty of other ways to track people - using information that people have provided freely when utilizing common tools and services online.

3 points
imaginedesigner's avatar
3 years ago

I'm really concerned about this topic. But everybody is seeing it like, Google & Facebook are already doing it, then why not Government! If any government is forcing us to install any app, there goes freedom and everything. If it's necessary and the situation is like out of control then an open-sourced app is the answer.

1 point
nhan_000's avatar
3 years ago

I am a foreigner currently live and study in the US. So I think I'll need to give some context to my thoughts:

1 point
nhan_000's avatar
@nhan_000 (replying to @nhan_000 )
3 years ago

TLDR: If possible, a short-term, intrusive contact tracing should be implemented. People should give up some of their privacy for the general good. (I’m sorry if this offend you, I have no intention getting in a political or ideological argument).
I am a foreigner currently live and study in the US. So I think I'll need to give some context to my thoughts:
From where I am from, it’s a one-party authoritarian government and privacy is not a thing. We’re not a very high-tech country so the surveillance is not as intrusive as in the US but I’m sure there’s a lot more than what people think. But hey, we were never raised to value human rights and privacy, so we don’t care about these things much in our day to day life. And the government has the last say in everything, so we can’t really do anything even if we care. And having a collectivistic mindset, we showed contempt for people who don’t quarantine themselves, abiding by the rules or hiding their past activities from the government contact tracer.
Surprisingly, till this date, our developing country is winning the war against this virus with zero deaths and less than 400-500 cases although we share our border with China (not really say anything though. I bet Wuhan may have more connections to the US than with my country). And I’m quite certain that you’ll be repulsed when you find out how intrusively the contact tracing there were conducted. The patients sometimes were named on national television, the people they met, the locations, time, their itinerary, were traced as detailed as possible, creating a large web. If one person found infected. They quarantine the whole block.
I guess I have digressed quite a bit from the topic of this discussion. With this pandemic, I believe having aggressive contact tracing might help a lot (as evidenced in the response of many other Asian countries). Open source apps should be used to track itinerary and people should be cooperative with the government in order to contain the virus.

2 points
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