When we give up a little bit of privacy in favor of security, we rarely gain that privacy back.
In the wake of 9/11 we got the Patriot Act, which is the largest expansion of our financial surveillance regime since the Bank Secrecy Act in 1970.
We don't want to end up looking like mainland China looks.
With lockdowns still in effect across the country Americans are growing restless.
They've taken something and blown it so far out of poroportion, that it's destroying our country.
There's a system that could make reopening possible without increasing the spread of COVID-19.
It's called contact tracing, and involves tracking down every in-person interaction that infected individuals have had in the preceding days, and then testing, isolating, and repeating the process.
Several countries are using phone applications that use Bluetooth or GPS to generate a record of who individuals have come into contact with.
In Singapore downloading contact tracing apps is voluntary.
China and Israel use them to enforce mandatory quarantines and isolation.
Voluntary coronavirus tracing and tracking software for iPhones and Androids.
In the US Apple and Google have partnered to create a contact tracking app for iPhones and Android devices, but these technologies are raising serious privacy concerns.
It's important that these systems are lawful and voluntary.
It's important that these systems minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the collection of personal information.
Alan Butler is a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which has been urging Congress to build privacy protections into any contact tracing system deployed in the United States.
Butler says it's also vital that the system be entirely voluntary.
Wouldn't making it voluntary limit the amount of data able to be collected and therefore undermine the effectiveness of the system? I think it's likely that a decent percentage of citizens may decide to install that app because if it's actually useful then they may find it helpful themselves.
But it won't—there will never be universal coverage for this type of system I think, and it's and it's never meant to be, right? It's not a silver bullet.
Butler says, like in other countries, these apps would be used in conjunction with manual data collection, and he cautions against systems deploying any apps that use GPS to track phones like those being used in China and Israel.
That really changes the relationship between the government and the citizen it's very different to build a system you know for citizens toreceive alerts that actually serve a purpose to them and serve a publichealth purpose versus you know a system of of you know direct governmentenforcement of quarantine orders and like Butler says that a better approachis to use a phone's Bluetooth signal to enable virtual handshakesand those handshakes don't reveal your name to the other phone or the otherphone's owner's name to you they just exchange random and and and rapidlychanging identifying numbers what is Bitcoin bitcoin is the world's firstcrypto currency Peter Van Valkenburg is the director of research at coinCenter a nonprofit advocacy group for cryptocurrency and decentralizedcomputing technologies he praises aspects of singapore's Bluetooth basedtraced together app which alerts users when they've been in proximity tosomeone who's recently tested positive for kovat 19 without revealing thatperson's identity but he objects to Singapore's decision to store phonenumbers in a central database we're not talking about a system that's trulyprivacy preserving because there's still this very valuable list of phone numbersthat have been near other phone numbers mm-hmmyou could mine that data and if you were sort of malicious and dedicated youcould come up with just about as accurate a portrait of a person'smovement throughout their day and all the people they've been in contact withas you have from the GPS data but valkenburg says that cryptocurrencydevelopers with their expertise in building privacy-preserving systemscould solve that problem he cites a recent paper from the Z cash foundationwhere Van Valkenburg is a board member that describes an anonymous anddecentralized system for verifying Cova 19 test results what's important aboutthat is unless you are found to be sick and you publish your numbers to theserver no information gets published to the central server about you and sothat's how we keep it private and local the data is not shared at all unless andin the event that you are sick he says another application of this technologycould be in issuing proof of immunity certificates for individuals who'vedeveloped antibodies that protect them from Koga 19 this little QR code is alot more powerful than it looks it helps collect data about your travelhistory health status and more and China is using it to track citizens and stopthose infected with the corona virus in this scenariohealth officials would grant digital tokens of immunity to qualifiedindividuals who would then be allowed to engage in otherwise restrictedactivities like going to restaurants driving taxis and walking around withouta mask so the normal way of doing digital identity is to just have a biglist the decentralized ledger would not include any personal identifiableinformation it would just be these pseudonyms that's in a nutshell howBitcoin works we have this database of who owns which bitcoins but it's not onecompany that controls it it's a blockchain that's shared acrossmany people and it doesn't reveal a lot of personal information because everyoneon that database is pseudonymous if we were to build a decentralized proof ofimmunity credentialing system I would hope that it would at least contemplateusing a decentralized identity system rather than trusting one corporation orone government to keep this centralized database which could be vulnerable tohacking or to abuse but truly private and decentralized systems are harder tobuild and it's not clear what Van Valkenburgenvisions could be ready in the near term perhaps the system being developedby Apple and Google will have to be good enough though the companies didn'trespond to our interview requests according to the initial proposal theirsystem does rely on Bluetooth handshakes as opposed to GPS to preserve locationprivacy the phone identifiers recycle daily and never leave the device unlessthe user reports a positive case and the whole system is completely voluntarywith users deciding whether to contribute to contact tracingApple and Google software would maintain a central record with identifyinginformation from phones of those who test positive but it would stop therekeeping those who were merely exposed anonymous even allowing devices toidentify each other through Bluetooth is a step towards weaker security that inthe past companies wouldn't consider Google with Android and Apple with iOShave previously prevented apps from doing this kind of Bluetooth handshakingfor the very reason that it is extremely violative of people's privacy so inorder to allow these apps to work Apple and Google need to loosen therestrictive policies on apps ability to use bluetooth for these purposes andwhat's interesting which is indicative maybe of whether Google and Apple areapproaching this in a way that respects our privacy is that they've refused toloosen some of the ability of apps to access location data when healthauthorities in some countries have demanded it how much of a concern is itfor you that once we allow this temporary surveillance it's not going toremain so temporary when we give up a little bit of privacy in favor ofsecurity or to address a crisis we rarely gain that privacy back in thewake of 9/11 we got the Patriot Act the largest expansion of our financialsurveillance regime since the Bank Secrecy Act in 1970 and we may now seethat rather than in the Terrorism context in the pandemic context andinstead of talking about financial surveillance we're talking about full onlocation surveillance we don't want to end up looking like mainland China looksright now we're sure we might be able to lock down a city during a pandemic andyou might think that the trade-off is worth it then but it's important to notethey also have the ability to track ethnic minorities and put them inreeducation camps when they don't go to the right places and so I think it's anoble objective to say can we do something to stop the spread of thedisease but not involve a violation of people's privacy but that doesn't meanthat we must do this maybe if it turns out that we can't build a solution thatminimizes those privacy risks we just shouldn't have this we shouldjust say look there are other ways to fight pandemic as states begin tocontemplate plans to end to lock down the Apple Google project is set forrelease in mid-may the onus is on all of us to make sure to scrutinize thesystems that are put into place the proposals that are put forward and tomake sure that they are protective of privacy and that we don't you know adoptsome you know new eternal system of Perpetual surveil and so they none of uswant to live in that world you.