Bad times makes impossible happen. This is kind of things going on right now situation created by COVID-19 pandemic situations. The Android and iOS guys I mean Google and Apple are going to partner. They are going to create API and low energy specification named as Contact Tracing. The basic idea is that when someone comes in contact with the COVID-19 affected patients in a specified area, the app can trigger an notifcation. This technique like contact tracing is already being used in countries like South Korea and Taiwan, they have developed their own kind of contact tracing. According to reports, South Korea successfully flattened the curve using the technlogy like contact tracing. Also, other countries like UK, Canada, Italy, CZech republic are developing their own contact tracing technique. Now the tech giant like Google and Apple are teaming up to come up with the same powerful solution. But this surely can trigger some privacy issues, they have stated ths as “with user privacy and security central to design”. So the Google And Apple Covid-19 partnership can be really useful.
How it works?
Google and Apple recently published their blog articles about this new tracing app and its use. The bluetooth connectivbity will be used in the app. Firstly, the Apple and Google will release an App with implemented API that will enable interoperability. This will enable the Android and iOS devices to get data from Public health authorities. Google will push updates from Google Play services whereas Apple will provide an OS update. In the next month, Google and Apple both will enable the low contact bluetooth tracing (Bluetooth low energy service).
So after the both apps will be ready users can install the app from App store or Play store. Now the main thing about this tech comes up. When you will come in contact with the COVID-19 dignosed person, you will receive notifications that you have contacted with COVID-19 dignosed person. The good thing is this will not require any app to work. This BLE solution only need presumable the Google Play services. But if they install any of the official app they can receive notifications and also what they can do afterwards. So after getting the notifcations users can isolate or qurantine themselves or take precautions and inform doctors. See the below image for more image illustration.
Obviously, there are some serious privacy implications so here’s Google And Apple Covid 19 Tracing App privacy concers.
- Explicit user consent required, the app will require complete user consent to trace. If the user installs the app for the first time as all the apps it will ask for permissions.
- So to use this API only for official apps and not for fraud Covid 19 apps. “It will be required to timestamp and cryptographically sign the set of keys, before delivery to the server with the signature of an authorized medical authority”.
- If the user uninstalls the app from his device, all the data will be wiped including the keys. Even if the user is positively dignosed the user consent will required if the user wants to upload the 14 days keys.
- Users will surely will be notified whether they contacted the COVID 19 person. But it will not show the person name and where they get contacted. The app will show only the date and how much time they were in contact.
BLE Privacy Issues
- The Contact Tracing Bluetooth Specification does not use location for proximity detection. It strictly uses Bluetooth
beaconing to detect proximity.
- A user’s Rolling Proximity Identifiers changes on average every 15 minutes, and needs the Daily Tracing Key to be
correlated to the user. This reduces the risk of privacy loss from advertising them.
- Proximity identifiers obtained from other devices are processed exclusively on device.
- Users decide whether to contribute to contact tracing.
- If diagnosed with COVID-19, users consent to sharing Diagnosis Keys with the server.
- Users have transparency into their participation in contact tracing.
So there are much complicated privacy concers. This will surely going to limit the full functionality of the App. According the article by The Verge, the BLE functionality will so much limited it’ll be of no practical use. But I really hope this app will bring some ease for this pandemic situation.