Apple and Google Team Up
Recently, it was announced that Apple and Google have teamed up to create a decentralised contact tracing tool that will help individuals determine whether they have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus.
What is Contact Tracing?
The concept behind contact tracing is to help public health authorities track the spread of a disease and inform the potentially exposed, in order to get tested. The contact tracing tool will be a system-level contact tracing system that will work across iOS and Android devices. This is an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus by ensuring that people are aware when they have come into contact with someone with coronavirus, and so take appropriate action.
As with anything regarding the use of big data, there is always a privacy concern.
However, this tool looks to also solve this problem, as it will be based on a Bluetooth signal system that works through a short-range radio communication protocol that detects whenever you have been close to someone with the coronavirus. It is inspired by Apple’s Find My system and does not use location data in any way.
Google and Apple have prevented governments from building tracing apps on the tracing tool that operates centrally. Specifically, this week the NHS faced a stand-off with the two companies after the two tech firms refused to support the UK’s plans to build an app that alerts users of when exactly they have been in contact with someone with the coronavirus. The subtle difference here between what the NHS is requesting, and what Google and Apple are developing, is that the tool focuses on alerting people as to whether they have been around other people with the coronavirus, and not where people with the coronavirus are located.
One uses a precise location, one uses Bluetooth.
Google and Apple do not want governments using the data to build a picture of population movements in aggregate. The key here is to ensure the apps and tools are decentralised in adherence with Apple and Google’s policy.
However, one must ask whether it would not be more effective for governments to build the picture of population movements, to understand where to allocate resources to, in the country. The problem with this is that it is an invasion of privacy, (perhaps without consent) by using location data. An ethical debate may arise as to whether it is worth sacrificing privacy rights for the greater good of stopping the spread of the virus.
The use of location data to track the coronavirus has been implemented in Spain, Italy, Norway and Belgium.
Additionally, Google and Apple’s tool is an “opt in” system that operates on the user’s decision to have their status uploaded to the cloud system through any app that integrates the tracing tool. So, someone with the coronavirus can choose whether to upload their status to this tool to alert other people or not. This satisfies Article 7 of the General Data Protection Regulation giving users the right to consent and withdraw consent and inform users of what their consent is being used for.
It may be worth thinking about the effectiveness of this tool as it will give people the choice to essentially do the “right thing”. The UK government already appealed to people to do the “right thing” and stay at home, but that did little until stricter measures were enforced.
For more on how contact tracing works check it out here.
Cybercrime on the Rise
A seemingly obvious side-effect of working from home, yet one that may not come to mind immediately, is the vulnerability of office data by implementing last-minute work – from – home measures.
Software and security company VMWare Carbon Black recorded this week that ransomware attacks increased 148% in March from the previous month.
What does this mean
The effects on the rise of cybercrime will depend on a company’s system of working. If a company already had systems that allowed employees to work from home, the protection of office data at home would not be an issue at the current moment. This is simply because those companies would have been better prepared and been able to adapt swiftly to home working.
However, for companies that had not previously implemented work-from-home schemes, they may struggle to implement and test security systems at this time.
The implications of increased cybercrime during this pandemic could be very serious, as companies are more focused on cost-cutting and ensuring that they have as much revenue as they can hold onto. As a result, they may neglect cyber-security measures, which could result in being another major blow to revenue streams, if hackers get their hands on valuable information.
Legally, companies will need to look into investing in cyber-security lawyers to give effective advice as to what measures should be implemented to reduce the chances of employees’ computers being attacked from home and protect important office data. Law firms will especially need to stay alert, due to the confidential nature of the industry.