My Opinion about Contact Tracing Apps and Privacy

100 Days to Offload Post 1

Note: I got all fired up writing this post. I’m calm again now. There are news articles out now about Google Play teaming up with Apple to push out a system update that builds in a contact tracing function, because of the Coronavirus pandemic. While some people seem fine with this, I consider this to be NOT AT ALL FINE. Not at all.

For multiple reasons:

  • There are serious questions about whether it will work at all, because it uses Bluetooth which is not great at differentiating distances, and for contact tracing it matters whether a person is 5 feet away from you in the grocery store or 30 feet away in their car.
  • It’s freakin’ creepy. It’s tracking the locations of every person in the country. And if they roll it out now, but then remove that function entirely once the danger of this pandemic passes, I’ll eat my hat.
  • Crises are so very often used to expand the power of people and institutions in power. It’s been nearly twenty years since the 9-11 attack on the Twin Towers, and we still have the Patriot Act with all its privacy invasions. “Because terrorism!”
  • “Because safety!” can be used the same way. Yes, I am taking this pandemic very seriously, and I’m in favor of the stay at home orders to minimize the spread of the disease. But orders to stay home are clearly unsustainable, a short term solution, for a very specific scientific purpose. Contact tracing apps are dubious and these companies jumped on it mighty fast, and I wouldn’t expect them to do that if they were going to retire that function in three months or whenever this virus is under control.
  • If they implement contact tracing for the coronavirus, what else will they want to use it for? Every communicable disease?
  • Can it be hacked? Used to track individuals? Yes, they say it’ll be anonymized, but data is out there, and so it is vulnerable to an attack. You know how every company that has ever been hacked or had a data leak said they were “secure”? (Remember Equifax?)
  • I’m getting all amped up about this, so I’ll cool out.

They say the update is going to be rolled out in May. My plan of action at this point is:

  • Disable Google Play Services, if possible. (Still testing this.)
  • Keep Bluetooth toggled off except when I’m specifically using it for my keyboard. I don’t use Bluetooth headset or speakers so this is easy.
  • And the next topic, NetGuard… (next post.)