Note: This thread is related to #Coronavirus #COVID19

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Derek Thompson+ Your Authors @DKThomp Writer at @TheAtlantic. Host of podcast CRAZY/GENIUS. Author of book HIT MAKERS. Talker on NPR's @hereandnow and @CBSNews. derek[at]theatlantic[dot]com Apr. 10, 2020 1 min read + Your Authors

"Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth tech to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design."

Here's what that means ... 

It’s September. Social distancing is relaxed, but the virus is active. Millions of ppl are walking around with phones using Bluetooth to send and receive signals to nearby devices.

I go to Starbucks and stand close to another customer: ping.
I go to lunch with my boss: ping.

If I test positive for COVID, I can choose to share my data with an agency. Every ping in my digital “rolodex” of pings gets a notice through the app: “Hey, somebody you were close to in the last X hours has been diagnosed…”

A similar system is being discussed in Germany...

Upside: Bluetooth reveals proximity, but not location: big win for privacy.

Downside: Bluetooth reveals proximity, but not location: so it doesn't reveal local hotspots.

Upside: Even if a minority of ppl opt in, it's still very useful. It's more like Waze than Uber, in that it doesn't need network effects to overcome some utility threshold.

Downside: Apple + Google + DC seeking a god's-eye view of total U.S. interactions? People will freak.

Upside: This is likely more accurate than old-fashioned contract tracing, which is just interviewing ppl about their lives.

Downside: There are 15+ million unemployed ppl right now, can't we just hire them to be contact tracers and leave digital surveillance out of it?

Digital tracing could be a mirage, a breakthrough, a muddle-through option, or the opening chapter of a mass-surveillance dystopia.

But 18 months of mass house arrest is untenable. We need options. This is one. 

You can follow @DKThomp.


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