Apple and Google have had a major influence in how COVID-19 contact tracing has progressed, or hasn’t, in various countries. Writing for Businesss Insider, Tom Loosemore, a cofounder of the UK’s Government Digital Service, expressed concern at their unaccountable power.
I hope I am wrong, but I fear that Google and Apple’s approach will not prove particularly valuable in the messy real world of contact tracing. It is just too crude. Google and Apple have given governments an abacus in an era of machine learning. I’ll admit I was instinctively pleased when I heard of Google and Apple’s decision. Throughout my career, I’ve defended people’s privacy from your typical state’s propensity to collect ever more data about their citizens, often without reason. But in the weeks since April 10, I’ve reflected more on the nature of power. Who has power? And how is it held to account?