COVID-19 contact tracing apps already in our smartphones

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COVID-19 contact tracing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau authorized an app to track COVID-19 cases that will be “strongly recommended” but optional for all Canadians. In a public statement in June, Trudeau said that “the privacy of Canadians will be fully respected.”

“At no time will personal information be collected or shared, and no location services will be used,” Trudeau said in June when the app was set to be tested in Ontario, calling the app “totally secure and completely anonymized.”

Recently Apple & Google made that option appear through a software update. They made it possible for the contact tracing apps to work. The user must choose to download a region-specific app (like the upcoming Canadian one), and then allow the app to use the Covid-19 tracing feature.

The “Big Brother” feeling has many up in arms about the future of the app.

“Will this be like all the other protocols we have been requested to adhere to?” said a West Island resident who would prefer to remain anonymous. “It was recommended that we stay home, then it was compulsory, then suggested we wear masks, now it is compulsory. I fear the technology that was installed in all of our phones will one day be automatically turned on and my medical history amongst other information available to all. I feel this will make us more afraid of our neighbours.”

Dollard des Ormeaux resident and  Computer and Information Systems Security Engineer, Adam Szporer disagrees.

Consider, though, that we’re in the middle of the most significant public health and economic crisis in decades. Surely we can be a little flexible considering the alternative of city-wide lockdowns.

“Wouldn’t it be easier for all the people who were in bars to get alerts only if they had been in contact with someone who tested positive?” challenged Szporer. “We could focus our testing efforts better, prioritizing those at higher risk to get faster results. We could self-isolate under more limited circumstances. We could start to get back to normal.”

“I’ve read the Apple-Google technical documentation and understand the measures they’ve taken to preserve privacy,” stated Szporer in an exchange with the West Island Blog.

“The reality we live in is that technology is everywhere, and it’s mysterious,” he continued. “You can’t open up a mobile phone and intuitively “see” how it works, the way you could have done with an old ring phone at home.

The only thing we can do is trust that the manufacturers of our technology are responsible and transparent. Which they haven’t always been (consider the recent VW emissions scandal). It’s near impossible to get it right the first time, which is why we have software updates every month or so.”

“But that’s the modern world we live in, and we need to place our trust somewhere. I’m comforted that as soon as the app is released, it will be poked and prodded by hackers and security researchers all over the world. I’m sure if there are no big reports of flaws in the first few days we’re probably fine,” said Szporer.

Szporer holds degrees in Computer Engineering and Information Systems Security, is a member of the Order of Engineers, is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).

While Szporer gave his opinion on this subject, he would like to note, “I’m commenting as a member of the public and have no insider knowledge of the ap”.

covid tracking app

1 COMMENT

  1. This article is not entirely accurate – phones have the ability to do this but the screenshot shown above merely indicates the preparedness for exposure tracking is there – until and actual tracking app is installed and enabled you cannot turn this privacy feature on. At the moment there is no Canadian or Quebec tracking app that has been released for download.

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