What Is That COVID-19 Exposure Logging Thing on Your Phone?
I hadn't heard anything about a software update that included anything having to do with COVID-19 Exposure Logging until my Facebook friend Jennifer posted about it this morning. I read through her comments and sure enough on my iPhone under settings / privacy / health was something that said COVID-19 Exposure Logging. It was turned off. According to the information provided by Apple it's a tool that when paired with an authorized app can send exposure notifications. According to 9to5mac.com Apple and Google collaborated on an COVID-19 exposure logging API to help public health develop apps for voluntary contract tracing of COVID-19.
Delving deeper into Apple's information I ran into a bunch of tech babble trying to explain how the reporting system will keep my privacy in tact while allowing a COVID-19 exposure app to figure out if I may have spent time with someone who has since been diagnosed with the coronavirus, or if there was a good chance I have been exposed to the virus based on where I've been.
Then the big brotherish part of this started to be explained. Apple says, "if you are notified of an exposure event, the app my generate an Exposure Risk Value, which the government or public health authority may use to tailor its guidance to you and to help it manage the COVID-19 pandemic."
"If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or present a potential exposure risk, your government or public health authority will provide insturctions on repoorting that in your app. If you choose to report, the app will ask to share your random IDs." I'm assuming that would be used then to alert others that they've been around someone who put them at risk for the coronavirus.
Look, I'm no expert at reading and interpreting this stuff. And an explanation written by tech guys and lawyers. Well let's face it, they can make the most benign thing sound ominous. So what are people more versed in tech saying about this stuff?
9to5mac.com gives a really good explanation on how all of this works. They also say viral rumors on the internet saying that the government is using the software to spy on users is false. In fact, the API does nothing until the user turns it on and pairs it with app. And then the data received by public health is anonymous.
Techcrunch.com reports that Apple and Google have emphasized they want as much user control and transparency into their Exposure Logging API and want to make sure the users of public health apps developed to work with the phones give the user full control of what they share. The website also mentions the API was designed to be temporarily put on phones, not a permanent feature.
And the description from CNBC.com perhaps gives the best overall description of what this thing that's now on our phones does:
Apple and Google’s contact tracing system is designed to slow the spread of coronavirus by tracking who a person has been in close contact with using a Bluetooth system that stores data on people’s phones, not a central database.
So will I turn it on, pair it with an app when one is available, and participate? Sure. Why? Do you really think you're not being tracked already? Do you really think you have privacy on the web? Facebook? The government isn't spying on us digitally. It's big business.
Digital data from our online lives is big business. And big tech develops new things each day to make it easier for people who want to sell us everything to know more about us and make it easier for them to do just that. It's scary-amazing how our digital footprint can be used by companies to sell us what we want.
So yeah, I'm not really opposed if Johnson County Community Health Services, or Pettis Couty Health Center, or the State of Missouri wants to use an app to help our communities stay open and healthy. What do you think?