Apple and Google, working together on a COVID-19 contact tracing system — which has been criticized by privacy advocates, lawmakers, and others, including yours truly, for various reasons – are now rebranding their tools as “exposure notification.”
To assuage those fears, the two companies on Friday outlined a series of technical tweaks to better uphold privacy, but the most important change may’ve been something far simpler: Saying the tools are for “exposure notification” instead of “contact tracing.”
Apple and Google told reporters on a joint conference call that the new terminology is simply a more accurate description of the project. The shift is in a sense a rebranding effort, but it’s more than cosmetic. Ditching a term like “tracing,” which could have ominous connotations of surveillance, may go a long way in getting consumers to use the tools…
Google is often criticized for its business model, which relies on user data collected through its search engine, maps and other services to let advertisers target specific audiences with their messages. The search giant has also been accused of being less than forthright with its location data permissions, collecting the information when people thought they’d turned the setting off. Apple has a much sturdier reputation on privacy…
MacDailyNews Take: You rebrand things you can’t sell and that don’t/won’t work as advertised.
Contact tracing Exposure notification apps are nothing more than pablum for the masses: “Want to feel safe while getting back to work, shopping, going out to eat, vacationing, etc.? There’s an app for that.”
As we just wrote earlier this morning, Apple and Google are very likely taking the lead on this thing because they want to be out front of myriad privacy issues, not letting governments that are proven to overreach and which love centralized programs dictate the direction of contact tracing.
Even in Singapore, where citizens follow the rules, their COVID-19 contact tracing app has been installed by just 12% of the population). That’s at least 48% short of the lowest threshold for “digital herd immunity.”
No matter how well-designed the system is on paper, in practice too few people will install and use it*, while reliance on Bluetooth connectivity (range, materials penetrance, public transport, etc.) will result in myriad false positive issues.
This seems like something designed to provide a digital security blanket to help increase confidence for going back to work more than anything else.
*In the U.S., beyond the obvious constitutional rights issues, 18% of the U.S. population, or 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 a useful, working system.