UK Government Releases NHS COVID Contracts With Private Companies

· Andrew Orr · Link

United Kingdom flag

Faced with pressure, the UK government has released its contracts with Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Faculty, Palantir, and others.

The contracts show that companies involved in the NHS datastore project, including Faculty and Palantir, were originally granted intellectual property rights (including the creation of databases), and were allowed to train their models and profit off their unprecedented access to NHS data.

The REAL reason why they wanted to avoid Apple and Google’s privacy solution.

Italy Launches ‘Immuni’ Contact Tracing App

· Andrew Orr · News

Immuni App icon

Italy has launched its contact tracing app called Immuni. It uses Apple and Google’s exposure notification API. Find it on the App Store here.

The Care19 Contact Tracing App Gives Your Location Data to Foursquare

· Andrew Orr · Link

Image of person holding phone

Care19, a contact tracing app used by North and South Dakota, violates its own privacy policy. Notably, the creator of the app, ProudCrowd, made sure that location data from the app is shared with Foursquare, although it claims it’s not used for commercial purposes. It’s a violation of its privacy policy because users are told their location data is private:

This location data is private to you and is stored securely on ProudCrowd, LLC servers. It will not be shared with anyone including government entities or third parties, unless you consent or ProudCrowd is compelled under federal regulations.

Meditation App ‘Headspace’ Offers Free Year of Premium Content

· Andrew Orr · Link

Headspace logo

Headspace is offering Americans a free year of premium access of the full library of guided meditations and courses.

“The current state of unemployment in the US has become an alarming crisis,” the company website said. “To help those affected, we’re offering a full year of Headspace Plus for free. Discover meditation and mindfulness tools to help you feel less stressed, more resilient, and kinder to yourself.”

Nice move. Self-care is important.

France Claims Apple is Undermining its COVID App Efforts

· Andrew Orr · Link

Apple in France

On Tuesday the French government accused Apple of undermining its efforts with its contact tracing app “StopCovid.”

Apple’s iPhones normally block access to Bluetooth unless the user is actively running an app. French officials want Apple to change the settings to let their app access Bluetooth in the background, so it is always on. So far, they say, Apple has refused.

O, the French minister, said he could not explain the reasoning behind Apple’s decision on Bluetooth. “We consider that oversight of the healthcare system, fighting the coronavirus, is a matter for governments and not necessarily for big American companies,” he said.

As we pointed out on our Daily Observations podcast, most people aren’t going to care about the privacy aspects of these apps. But they will care about battery life, and apps like these constantly using Bluetooth in the background will undoubtedly be a factor, Bluetooth Low Energy or not.

This Pandemic Gives More Power to Big Tech

· Andrew Orr · Link

App icons to signify big tech: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple.

Kara Swisher wrote for The New York Times about how this pandemic will put even more power into the collective hands of Big Tech companies.

Now, as we turn to the healthy companies to help us revive the economy, it could be that the only ones with real immunity are the tech giants. In this way, Covid-19 has accelerated their rise and tightened their grip on our lives. And this consolidation of power, combined with Big Tech’s control of data, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, media, advertising, retail and even autonomous tech, is daunting.

This has been my fear as well. What happens to all the small businesses unable to loans from the government and money from customers? They get swallowed by delivery apps, whether it’s for groceries, alcohol, or other goods.

Senators Introduce COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act

· Andrew Orr · Link

Supreme court

Today a group of Republican senators announced plans to introduce the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act.

The legislation would provide all Americans with more transparency, choice, and control over the collection and use of their personal health, geolocation, and proximity data. The bill would also hold businesses accountable to consumers if they use personal data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

A good move, I think. We need thoughtful legislation passed to preempt the contact tracing train.

Cellebrite Pitches its iPhone Hacking Tools as COVID-19 Surveillance Solution

· Andrew Orr · Link

Cellebrite logo

Cellebrite, a company known for its iPhone hacking tools, is pitching its products to governments as a surveillance alternative to contact tracing.

When someone tests positive, authorities can siphon up the patient’s location data and contacts, making it easy to “quarantine the right people,” according to a Cellebrite email pitch to the Delhi police force this month.

This would usually be done with consent, the email said. But in legally justified cases, such as when a patient violates a law against public gatherings, police could use the tools to break into a confiscated device, Cellebrite advised.

I get the feeling that there are many who are unhappy that Apple and Google’s solution is private and opt-in. Companies like Cellebrite and Palantir can’t pass up such an opportunity.

The Inside Story of How Apple and Google Worked on Contact Tracing

· Andrew Orr · Link

Apple health icon

CNBC has a report today on how a small team at Apple started developing ideas on how to help with the pandemic. It was codenamed Project Bubble.

In mid-March, with Covid-19 spreading to almost every country in the world, a small team at Apple started brainstorming how they could help […] Within a few weeks, the Apple project — code-named “Bubble” — had dozens of employees working on it with executive-level support from two sponsors: Craig Federighi, a senior vice president of software engineering, and Jeff Williams, the company’s chief operating officer and de-facto head of healthcare.

It’s a fascinating read.

Eric Schmidt Says Coronavirus Should Make You Grateful For Big Tech

· Andrew Orr · Link

Photo of Eric Schmidt

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt believes that the coronavirus should make everyone “a little bit grateful” for Big Tech, and direct their anger at the government instead.

The benefit of these corporations — which we love to malign — in terms of the ability to communicate … the ability to get information, is profound — and I hope people will remember that when this thing is finally over. So let’s be a little bit grateful that these companies got the capital, did the investment, built the tools that we’re using now and have really helped us out. Imagine having the same reality of this pandemic without these tools.

Of course, as Mr. Schmidt undoubtedly knows, reality is never black and white. We can be grateful to Big Tech while also keeping them and their policies in check. The internet is certainly an essential service, and this pandemic is an argument for making the internet a public utility.