By B.N. Frank
Widespread increasing “Surveillance Capitalism” by businesses is creepy enough (see 1, 2). The Chinese government tracking Chinese Muslims is upsetting enough. Ford Motors asking employees to wear “buzzing wristbands” in order to maintain safe social distances – OMG ENOUGH ALREADY! Now the pandemic is being used as a “well-meaning” excuse by governments worldwide to track people even more than they were already being tracked. Argh.
Apple and Google are teaming up to launch technology that traces the spread of the coronavirus, via apps for iOS and Android users. Despite the companies’ insistence that privacy will be “of utmost importance,” some in the security space remain wary of data privacy concerns around the newly announced technology.
Apple and Google plan to use decentralized Bluetooth technology in smartphones to help users track whether they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus — also known as “contact tracing.”
The way it works is this: Any Android or iOS user who has opted in is assigned an anonymous identifier beacon, which will be transmitted to other nearby devices via Bluetooth (this is similar to a Bluetooth signal tracing technique used by Singapore in a coronavirus tracking app called TraceTogether, rolled out in March).
Despite Apple and Google’s emphasis on privacy, some remain concerned about its implications – particularly with the collecting and handling of sensitive healthcare data.
Sergio Caltagirone, vice president of threat intelligence at Dragos, for instance outlined his concerns with the technology in a Twitter thread, calling it “literally a real-time walking health report.” He also worried that the data would be used to “discriminate against people, as fear of coronavirus will rise as we leave large-scale quarantine.”
Here, we’re going to have health data records tied to a person tied to a phone tied to a location. It’s literally a real-time walking health report.
First, health data has ALWAYS been considered protected and sensitive. Hence, the privacy requirements and oaths physicians abide by – courts have LONG recognized this privacy.
— Sergio Caltagirone (@cnoanalysis) April 10, 2020
The explosion of coronavirus tracking in general has left security experts wary. The ACLU earlier this week for instance released a report, called “The Limits of Location Tracing in an Epidemic,” detailing the issues with phone-location tracking as a solution to contain coronavirus – including whether data is anonymous, who gets to access the data, how the data is used and what the lifecycle of the data is.
Can we take government officials at their word that they’ll eventually abandon their new powers?
From cellphone tracking to drone eyes in the sky, perused health records, and GPS ankle bracelets, an epidemic of surveillance-state measures is spreading across the world. It’s all done in the name of battling the spread of COVID-19, of course, since every crisis is used to justify incursions into our liberty. But long after the virus has done its worst and moved on, we’re likely to be stuck with these invasions of our privacy—unless we push back, hard.
Equally awful – all this technology emits biologically harmful Electromagnetic Radiation aka “Electrosmog” (see 1, 2, 3). Sources include 5G, Bluetooth, cell phone and WiFi radiation (see 1, 2, 3). Health experts including the World Health Organization have warned for many years that we should be reducing our exposure, not increasing it. So there’s that too.
Activist Post reports regularly about unsafe technology. For more information visit our archives and the following websites.
- Wireless Information Network
- Electromagnetic Radiation Safety
- Environmental Health Trust
- Physicians for Safe Technology
Image: Global Voices
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