One year ago, the tech sector jumped in with a plan to develop smart phone based contact detection apps. These would use Bluetooth to estimate potential contacts with someone later testing positive for Covid-19.
I predicted at the time (see past posts) that this technology was not likely to be successful for many reasons.
Here we are, one year later, and we are only now developing testing criteria for these apps.
The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded $959,305 to the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory this week to create testing criteria for a COVID-19 digital contact tracing app. The award was granted … Read More »
The media gave much attention to alleged privacy issues but that was never the problem – the problem was the nature of the technology and the high false negative and false positive rates and that huge numbers of people would need to use it for it to deliver mediocre results.
One year later, these apps are mostly non-existent and public health and has found very few potential cases through the technology. In spite of being a brain injured idiot, my analysis was correct.
Update: As of March 2021, essentially no one is using contact tracing apps in Canada either. In Alberta, the app has found 0.02% (that is 1% divided by 50!) of the positive Covid-19 cases. And some of those cases might have been determined by other means eventually anyway. The score card: 0.02% by contact tracing app and 99.98% by other methods.
If you carried a cell phone with you near the Capitol on January 6th, the FBI will be contacting you. The FBI has gone through cellular network databases and retrieved all cell phone data. If your phone was turned on, you will be contacted by the FBI – perhaps to provide witness testimony or as a potential suspect.
Microsoft joins GM in self driving vehicle initiative.
To unlock the potential of cloud computing for self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.Microsoft will join General Motors, Honda and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of Cruise to $30 billion.
This past year, the FAA wanted to track toy remote controlled model airplanes in real time, once per second. If the government thought they needed real time tracking of toys, you can be sure they will demand real time tracking of all automobiles.
Every vehicle incident will be tracked – in real time. The era of people driving away in hit-and-run accidents will come to an end. So will privacy but what ever, right? It’s probably for the children anyway.
Colleges are racing to sign deals with “online proctor” companies that watch students through their webcams while they take exams. But education advocates say the surveillance software forces students to choose between privacy and their grades.
Reports to the FAA of “drone sightings”, used by Congress and the FAA to drive forth draconian remote identification and mandated national surveillance networks using drones, with the goal of pricing drone flying out of the public’s reach – were based on bad data and media hysterics, much of which was false reporting.
Remember the Aeromexico flight in late 2018 that had a collapsed nose cone? The media blamed that on a drone. Six months later the official investigation found it was due to a maintenance defect on the nose cone.
Remember the Gatwick Airport fiasco? The only confirmed drone sightings were of the fleet of surveillance drones operated by the Sussex Police over the airport.
Remember the temporary Newark Airport closure due to a “drone sighting”? That drone report was from 20 miles away from the airport and may not have even been a drone at all.
The FAA’s primary goal is to make hobby flying of radio control model aircraft so expensive and cumbersome as to eliminate it entirely. The reason is to clear the low altitude airspace for AmazonGoogleUPS delivery drones. The FAA asserts that it and it alone owns the airspace in your front and backyards from the ground up. Literally, the airspace below your head when you stand outside is controlled by the FAA and they intend to use it for corporate delivery and surveillance networks. (See my comments to see how that works.)
Claims they’ve turned it off due to “industry conversation” about such technology. The tech is kinda useless when everyone is required to wear an airway restriction device over their face:)
In the hearts of New York and metro Los Angeles, Rite Aid deployed the technology in largely lower-income, non-white neighborhoods, according to a Reuters analysis. And for more than a year, the retailer used state-of-the-art facial recognition technology from a company with links to China and its authoritarian government.
With 30% agreeing to install such apps today, that means just 9% of potential contacts could be detected.
The apps have a host of real problems:
insufficient users to be useful. At 50% adoption, we can detect only 25% of potential contacts.
unreliable signal strength-based distance determination, which fails in radio signal multi-path situations
unable to detect when a barrier separates contacts. You sit outside at Starbucks and someone sits inside at a table. The inside person later tests positive for Covid-19. You receive a message. But they give you no indication where or when the contact occurred – so you have to go into quarantine for 14-days, delivering no benefit to anyone. This error can occur in buildings (through walls) or even between cars stopped at traffic signals or heavy traffic.
unable to detect “across time” contacts. Person sits on bus, coughs, gets up, exits bus, new passenger sits in coughed on seat. These apps cannot detect this. Person sits at Starbucks tables, coughs, gets up and leaves, next person sits at contaminated table. None of these parties will be in Bluetooth contact and the apps will miss these contacts.
Bluetooth-based apps are not going to be effective. Singapore pulled the plug on their app due to insufficient users. The UK has been testing a Bluetooth app that was to have rolled out nationwide in mid-May. It’s still in testing and public information about the app has gone silent; it has not been rolled out yet. Norway has an app that uses both Bluetooth and GPS data, and used a central cloud database. This app was just ruled as violating privacy laws and has been pulled. Public health enthusiasts thought it was okay to violate privacy laws because laws do not matter to public health enthusiasts.
I do not plan to install a tracing app on my phone.
I do plan to be vaccinated as soon as vaccines are available.
I was sick with Covid-19-like symptoms during almost all of March. Antigen tests were not available to normal people, only those who were already hospitalized with pneumonia and to the elite (like the Governor and her husband). My doctor suggested getting an anti-body test (end of May) but I declined as the accuracy is not sufficient (when the real world incidence is very low, the number of false positives will exceed true positives), and knowing if I was sick is not, at this time, actionable information.
One of the first national coronavirus contacts tracing apps to be launched in Europe is being suspended in Norway after the country’s data protection authority raised concerns that the software, called ‘Smittestopp’, poses a disproportionate threat to user privacy — including by continuously uploading people’s location.
It had been downloaded by 16% of the population over the age of 16. That means it could detect .16 x .16 or about 2% of potential contacts. It appears their app was based on location data, centrally stored, plus used the ineffective Bluetooth RSSI method of detecting potential contacts.
It appears that public health enthusiasts had used the “laws don’t matter in a pandemic excuse” to justify violation of EU privacy laws.
Two years ago, Europe introduced the world’s toughest data privacy legislation, putting on notice the tech giants of the world who’d grown fat off your personal data. The General Data Protection Regulation, widely known as the GDPR, is a far-reaching law designed to uphold the right to privacy for Europe’s citizens. It promises to issue bigger fines for data protection violations than have ever been seen before: 20 million euros, or up to 4% of a company’s annual worldwide revenue from the preceding financial year, whichever’s greater.
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