Apple company and Google’s coronavirus app is a ‘global mass surveillance tool’

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American tech companies Apple and Search engines issued a joint statement on Apr 10, announcing their particular plans to incorporate a new Bluetooth-based coronavirus contact tracing technologies into the iOS plus Android operating systems.

“In the arriving months, Apple plus Google will work to allow a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing system by building this efficiency into the underlying systems. This is a more robust alternative than an API, ?? the statement stated, adding it will “enable discussion with a broader environment of apps plus government health professionals. ??

In theory, apps depending on this new efficiency will act as a good “alarm, ?? caution you if your smart phone was in close closeness to a device labeled as “infected”—belonging in order to someone tested good for the coronavirus. Yet there’s a capture.

The businesses claim new technology can “maintain strong defenses around user personal privacy, ?? yet the implementation could result in the actual opposite, according to Jaap-Henk Hoepman, associate teacher of Computer Technology at Radboud University or college.

Your mobile phone might be watching a person. Image: Shutterstock.

In his article titled “Stop the particular Apple and Google contact tracing platform. (Or be ready to ditch your smartphone. ), ?? Hoepman argued that Apple and Google’s plans could expose people’s phones at the operating system layer.

“Even though ‘privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance?? this is a game changing event that has grave consequences. […] Instead of an app, the technology is pushed down the stack into the operating system layer creating a Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform. This means the technology is available all the time, for all kinds of applications, ?? he said.

“This effectively turns our smartphones into a global mass surveillance tool. ??

Jaap-Henk Hoepman

Additionally, Hoepman suspected that contact tracing won’t be limited by the pandemic period. After its implementation, the technology will remain embedded in smartphones?? operating systems—unless Apple and Google choose to remove it in the future.

The researcher noted that, according to the whitepapers, there are no guarantees that tracing will be used purely to track the coronavirus and not for some other purposes. At the same time, Bluetooth tracking is much more precise than GPS, meaning apps will be able to pinpoint your exact location up to a few meters.

“This means that two very important safeguards to protect our privacy are thrown out of the window, ?? said Hoepman.

He also noted that even if Apple and Google won’t exploit the technology themselves, the very fact of its existence on the OS-level means that other companies or entities potentially would.

Hoepman suggests that other apps could use the bluetooth tracking ability. Image: Shutterstock.

“Any decentralised scheme can be turned into a centralised scheme by forcing the phone to report to the authorities that it was at some point in time close to the phone of an infected person, ?? Hoepman argued. “In other words, certain governments or companies—using the decentralised framework developed by Apple and Google—can create an app that (without users being able to prevent this) report the fact that they have been near a person of interest in the last few weeks. ??

While Apple and Google’s coronavirus platform itself may be decentralized, an app developed on top of it “breaks this protective shield?? and collects the contact information centrally.

“This effectively turns our smartphones into a global mass surveillance tool, ?? warned Hoepman.

As an example, he described a situation where people could be forced or incentivized to install such apps, while manufacturers could even pre-install apps with this functionality on smartphones.

According to Hoepman, this way, Google Home will be able to tell who visited your house, jealous spouses could spy on their partners, police could track whether you were close to some of their suspects, and so on. All it takes is announcing any given device as “infected”—and it will force other smartphones in close proximity to unveil themselves on the network.

“If this is the medicine, I think it is worse than the disease, ?? Hoepman added.

In defense of the app

While the contact tracing initiative might be opening a door into mobile phones, the app itself might not be so bad.

Bitcoin lawyer and libertarian Preston Byrne has argued that he will download Google and Apple’s contract tracing app, as long as it’s not made mandatory and that the data isn’t being monetized or unlawfully shared with the government.

“I don’t like Apple. I don’t like Google. In my view these companies have unfair and anti-competitive strangleholds over mobile app distribution. I don’t like surveillance capitalism. I don’t like how these companies do business, ?? he said, in a blog post on April 12, adding, “But we should all use this app anyway. ??

Byrne gave three reasons why he figured the particular app should be used—despite his reservations regarding Apple and Search engines.

First, this individual argued that it’s possible the application could be designed never to share the data along with Apple, Google, or maybe the government. He directed to the open-source coronavirus app TraceTogether, that is run by the Singapore government and doesn’t share personal information. Although there’s simply no guarantee that this would be the case.

Byrne hopes the application will preserve information like TraceTogether will. Image: Shutterstock.

Second, he mentioned the government needs a justify to access cell phone information from tech businesses, including Apple plus Google. This should assist in preventing the government from getting at the data en ton.

Third, this individual said that it’s possibly too late anyway aid privacy. “If you utilize Twitter and you’re trying to be unknown, chances are good that will you’ve already unsuccessful. If you have the cellular apps you’ve certainly failed, ?? he or she said.

“If you use a cell phone, it’s particularly simple to figure out who plus where you are using IP addresses and cellular phone tower locations. Your own phones also have exclusive ad tracking identifiers known as IDFAs which usually follow you close to wherever you go, ?? he added.