President Trump: Some have ‘very big constitutional problems’ with Apple-Google COVID-19 contact-tracing tech

Last week, Apple and Google jointly announced a partnership to create a COVID-19 contact-tracing system that works with both iOS and Android.

During yesterday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force Hold a Press Briefing, President Trump commented on the Apple-Google COVID-19 contact-tracing tech:

President Trump’s remarks:

A lot of people don’t like it from the standpoint of constitutional rights…

It’s an amazing thing, but a lot of people have some very big constitutional problems with it, you know that. It’s an amazing thing, and it would be – actually, as you know other other countries, are thinking about using something similar, but not as good… I hear Singapore is… [but] we have a constitutional thing…

We have more of a constitutional problem then a mechanical problem, but we will be making a determination on that. That’s something we’re gonna be discussing with a lot of people over the next four weeks. That would be a very accurate way of doing it, but a lot of people have a problem with it.

President Trump’s comments begin at the 2:51:13 mark.

How the proposed COVID-19 contact-tracing system from Apple and Google is designed to work:
Apple Google COVID. Apple and Google team on cross-platform COVID-19 contact tracing tool

Apple and Google team on cross-platform COVID-19 contact tracing tool
Click for larger view (Source: Apple and Google)

MacDailyNews Take: So, the problem with any COVID-19 contact-tracing tech in the U.S. is obvious, it wouldn’t work very well unless almost everyone used it, but U.S. citizens cannot be compelled to install a tracking app. So, such an app would have to be opt-in and nobody in their right mind trusts Google, much less the U.S. government, to handle lightly anonymized tracking data or to ever turn off collection or delete the data post-vaccine, so opt-in rates for a contact-tracing app would be suboptimal, if not outright dismal, resulting in ineffective COVID-19 contact-tracing.

If the government tries to make having such an app active as a requirement for working, or even moving about freely, they’d very likely have very poor legal outcome in the United States.

Further, beyond the obvious constitutional rights issues, 18% of the U.S. population, nearly 1-in-5 people, do not even have a smartphone. So, with one of every 5th person roaming about by default, not to mention all of the opt-outs, contact-tracing via iOS and Android smartphones would be more of a feel-good security blanket than anything else.

24 Comments

    1. Smart governors understand the President’s level of control very well. It’s not a legal authority, it’s a matter of which states would like federal help and which would like to try going it alone. If they want the money and federal support, they will do as the President directs. Same as it’s always been since George Washington.

      The governors need us one way or the other because, ultimately, it comes with the federal government. That being said, we’re getting along very well with the governors, and I feel very certain that there won’t be a problem… if some states refuse to open, I would like to see that person run for election… The governors need us, one way or the other. I feel very certain that there won’t be a problem. They will cooperate perfectly. Watch. – President Trump, April 13, 2020

      1. The threat to withhold federal help can only be effective if there is federal help to be withheld. To the degree that the governors have been going it alone or by mutual cooperation with other states and local authorities, they are immune to that degree from federal coercion. By refusing to help for the first three months of the crisis, the President has reduced his power to harm them now.

        The only one of the “many reasons” that matters is that there is obviously a huge political benefit for the President if he can blame the governors for shutting things down (when he was opposing them and alleging a lack of federal power) and then take credit for opening things back up (now that he has suddenly decided that he does have power). That does not make his assertion of absolute power sound constitutional law.

        George Washington understood that the allocation of federal funds was the responsibility of Congress. Mr. Trump has been doing his best to usurp that power by assuming “emergency” powers to transfer funds and impound them in defiance of the adopted budget. We can’t know how much of that is going on because he has instructed the Executive Branch to ignore Legislative subpoenas and oversight, and because he is doing everything in his power to undercut the Inspectors General.

        Even George Washington would have known that a CEO who refused to cooperate with the internal auditors and blocked any external audit is, at best, suspicious. It is particularly dangerous when the CEO has the power (if not the lawful authority) to treat trillions of dollars in taxpayer money as a slush fund to reward his friends and threaten his political opponents.

        As a loyal Virginian, Washington would have been particularly upset by the notion that the President has any power, much less absolute power, to redistribute appropriated funds to threaten state autonomy. See 10th Amendment, which will say the same thing even after Mr. Trump makes a “determination” of what our constitutional rights are going to be.

        1. Anybody who thinks that the governors of the sovereign states have the same duty to follow orders as naval personnel on a warship is a great candidate to play Captains Bligh or Queeg. Read the Tenth Amendment, people!

          1. So, using the president’s own words against him amounts to “Democrat [sic] propaganda”? I thought using the president’s words against him was called “fake news.”

          1. I think that was his point. Even most Democrats are smart enough to know CNN is a Democrat party propaganda machine (with ratings appropriately in the shitter). So, you lose, but enjoy your parting gift:

    1. You obviously don’t “understand the tech,” either. If you did, you know it won’t work. It’s nothing more than a “feel-good security blanket,” as MDN has explained.

      1. Yeah… if you want a tech system that really tracks everyone and the virus, you have to move to Singapore, South Korea or the country where ‘the virus from the country that shall not be named’ came from. They’ll track ya’ real closely and if there are any “issues,” there will be a knock on your door. Knock, knock!

  1. The only places I see “total control” happening are places like Michigan, where the governor is on a power trip… There are other places too where peoples rights are being trampled, and most all if it is because of democrats, this shut down was supposed to prevent the spread, not throw your rights out the window,,

    When its all said and done, the models used are just like those for Climate change, they use GIGO.. they were crap from the start and lead us down a road we probably did not need to go.

    Chances are, if we had done very little and just tried voluntary social distancing, and still went to work, exerting more care in keeping things clean, things would not have changed much from where we are now… But no, we had to follow the media generated panic. While Dr. Fauci is an good man, he made some serious mistakes here too..

    We probably don’t need the tracking either, because eventually, once people start moving around again some will get a little sick, some will be asymptomatic.. and they will become immune. We know who the most vulnerable are now and they need to take extra precautions, no matter what their age.. Though its has mostly affected older people with under-lying conditions. As well as younger people with similar issues, and they should know who they are.. We also have effective treatments now, though it does seem like not everyone is getting it, because the media tries to downplay the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine and associated medications that have saved many seriously ill patients now.

    What is really needed it anti-body testing wide spread, which is easier said than done.. That will tell us who had it, never knew, or thought they had it lightly, and are immune as well. Plus their plasma can probably help others recover or lead to a vaccine… A really BIG maybe, because there are many viruses we’ve known about for years that don’t have one, including HIV, that probably never will. And there is a cost to every vaccine, some people do get sick, some have died from vaccinations, some were not very effective or caused significant other health issues, some are pretty safe, though again, some people still have adverse reactions.

    As long as there is an effective treatment, most people will not die… unfortunately some will and while thats sad, we know that thousands die from many causes every day that we’ve come to accept somehow…. that list is long too, Why should this be any different?

  2. MacInfo, you might want to stick with info about Macs. You have so many questionable “facts” in this post as to make fact-checking it essentially impossible. I assume that you apply scientific method to your use of computers. It works for other domains as well.

  3. I wouldn’t put it past the big T to declare martial law if he doesn’t get his way with the governors. Yeah I know only congress has the authority to do that, but he routinely ignores congress. By the time that wimpy congress (both parties) got their act together, you would have soldiers everywhere.
    Since martial law entails suspending the constitution, you better keep your arms hidden, because no doubt they could be seized with no repercussions. A bit far fetched, but I wouldn’t put it past him at all.

    1. And you probably thought the Russians got him elected, Kavanaugh is a sex fiend, Ukraine is trying to re-elect Trump and any other fairy tale you’re told to believe by the NYTimes I mean World Socialism I mean the Democrat Party….

  4. We’re all under the National Emergencies Act which gives the prez a number of special powers. It can be removed by a joint resolution by Congress.

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