We all already know that Apple and Google are jointly developing an application to fight the coronavirus, which has brought the world to a pandemic and has brought the economy to the brink of an abyss. All this is very sad, but we must fight it. So the giants have united and are ready to release an application that will reveal the contacts of patients with coronavirus. Many people immediately started talking about the fact that this is another tracking tool, but if this tool saves at least a few thousand lives (not the background of hundreds of thousands of deaths, it is true “at least”), I will only be the first to install this application. But there are doubts that it will help, and here's why.
It turns out these companies can work together.
How Apple and Google will track people with coronavirus
Tracking people uses Bluetooth, not geolocation. This is the only way to try to identify exactly the contacts of people, and not their movements in general. And so much less energy is spent than if you have GPS. This technology is used Apple to search for stolen and lost phones, when a gadget, even with a dead battery, can still beep for several weeks – so low consumption.
If this application is installed on iPhone or Android – smartphone, it will assign you an identifier (instead of your name) and will analyze with whom you were at a short distance for more than a few minutes. If after some time one of the people you meet has a coronavirus infection, he will mark this in the application and everyone with whom he contacted will receive a notification that they should be checked and be more careful with contacts.
You will simply receive a notification that an infected person was near you.
In this way, not only verification is achieved almost online, but also complete confidentiality, since no one will know your name – only an identifier. Yes, and that will be encrypted.
Why Coronavirus Tracking App Is Useless
Even if the app does send you the correct notifications, sometimes it can still crash. For example, if you stand at a traffic light and an infected person is sitting in the next car. Or if you are in a building and there will be a person with a “crown” through the wall. The application will understand that somewhere nearby there are infected, but it will not know if you breathed the same air with it.
There is still a question about app updates. It's one thing to write it together, and quite another to keep it going. The companies should also do this together, because if at some point they take different paths, then they can forget about cross-platform.
In short, there is still a lot of work to be done. However, in my opinion, the real problem lies not in the long list of technical limitations that can ultimately be overcome, but primarily in the people themselves. Rather, our mistrustful and undisciplined human nature will remain the main obstacle to the effectiveness of such tools.
Many people still do not believe that the coronavirus exists at all.
Trusting people to use such tools and relying on their conscientiousness is a bad idea. People will need to not only install the application, but also update it, make sure that Bluetooth is turned on, and most importantly, they will need to mark themselves whether they are infected and let the application track their movements. It seems to me that there are too many uncontrollable elements here.
Is the fight against coronavirus with applications effective?
According to scientists from Stanford University in the USA, tracking will be effective only if data is collected from 50-70 percent of city residents. Moreover, even in large cities, the number of people who have a smartphone rarely exceeds 80 percent of the total population. And now let's subtract from them those who have Huawei or Honor who will not support this application, subtract those who have old smartphones and cannot install new applications on them, and also subtract those who simply do not know, do not know how to do it, or have not heard of such an initiative (for example, pensioners). Conspiracy theorists who are afraid to give permission to track their movements cannot be discounted. As a result, no more than 20-30 percent of the city's residents will remain.
The general lack of discipline that we are all capable of is, for all that, only the tip of the iceberg. There is also our almost innate distrust of tech giants and their authority.
Nobody expected such cooperation.
This is probably true in some way, especially for Google. But not because everyone is interested in what time I went to the store, but because collecting data is the company's business. So she understands where the person went, what he did and gives him the right advertisement at the right time. This is what Google makes money on. But it was not in vain that I said at the beginning that we were not talking about geolocation, but about Bluetooth Low Energy. Your phone will not transmit its location. He will only say that for 5 minutes he was next to the phone of an infected person. Of course, you can, bypassing all the rules, link this with the work of geolocation, but there is no point in this, because it can be collected like that.
Are people ready to violate their privacy
Returning to the number of people required for effective tracking, there is only one figure. Consulting firm Oliver Wyman tried to determine through a survey of 3,500 people in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Australia and Singapore (where a contact tracing app already exists) how many are willing to share their data. As a result, only 20 percent agreed to share their data, even realizing that people's lives are at stake. However, it should be noted that the survey implied that they would disclose the real names of users, and not just their identifiers.
So Apple and Google agreed on the same field.
In the case of an application from Apple and Google, the data will be stored locally, and you will only receive a notification that this identifier is sick. The phone will check if there were contacts with him, and will give an answer whether it is worth fearing. Or there is a second option, in which the data will be sent to the north in an encrypted form (besides the fact that they are not tied to your name anyway) and will be stored decentralized. That is, there will not be one server on which all the data will “lie”.
It's hard to blame people for being skeptical about this technology. Tracking efficiency can hardly be called very high, and the population has a lack of trust in technology. Remember at least the endless leaks of user data Facebook.
I believe that now any initiative, other than outright quackery, is good for fighting the pandemic. Especially if it doesn't interfere with other measures. In this case, even hundreds of saved lives are the lives of people, among whom you may be. As they say in such cases, take care of yourself and your loved ones.