The Michigan COVID-19 App is Now Available

· Andrew Orr · News

MI covid alert

The Michigan COVID-19 app is now available to download, letting users know if they come into contact with a person who has the virus.

Here’s How to Disinfect Your Apple Card

· Andrew Orr · Link

Apple Card displayed on an iPhone.

Brittney Myers wrote a guide on how to disinfect your Apple Card and other credit cards. I think it’s useful in situations where you’re unable to pay contactless with Apple Pay. We’ve heard for years that our smartphones are dirty, with some saying they can be dirtier than a toilet. I expect that credit and debit cards will have a similar level of uncleanliness.

According to Harvard Health, the coronavirus can live on plastic and stainless steel for up to three days, and the CDC advises that frequently touched objects and surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized at least once a day. In addition to copious handwashing, cleaning your frequently used items can help keep your home germ-free.

Apple Designs Custom Face Masks for Employees

· Andrew Orr · Product News

Mother putting a face mask on her child.

Designers at Apple have created a custom face mask for employees called Apple Face Mask and sourced another from ClearMask.

Glenn Fleishmann Introduces Free Book ‘Take Control of Zoom Essentials’

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

Zoom logo

Glenn Fleishman has released a free version of his book called “Take Control of Zoom Essentials” as well as updated the paid version called “Take Control of Zoom”. Take Control shared the news in a blog post:

Yesterday, we released two Zoom-related books by Glenn Fleishman: a new, free book called Take Control of Zoom Essentials and a gigantic version 1.1 update to the comprehensive Take Control of Zoom. We know a lot of people are using Zoom for work and school, and we hope you find these books helpful.

Zoom usage has skyrocketed now that more people have been working and learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider these books to know everything you want to know about using the video sharing platform.

APHL Wants to Build Central Server for COVID-19 Data

· Andrew Orr · Link

Image of server room

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) wants to build and host a national server to hold data collected from exposure notification apps. It’s partnering with Apple, Google, and Microsoft to do so.

Rather than each state and territorial public health agency bearing the burden of building and hosting its own key servers, a national server can securely host the keys of those affected users, eliminate duplication and enable notifications across state borders. APHL is also championing the effort to build and host a national key server on behalf of the public health community. This will allow users to continually benefit from exposure notifications as they travel across state lines, and help state and territorial agencies deploy their apps quickly.

Just two days ago, Trump removed control of public COVID-19 data from the CDC, and now someone wants to build a national server? What could go wrong?

Ireland Launches COVID-19 App Based on Apple Model

· Andrew Orr · News

Ireland has launched its COVID-19 tracking app ‘COVID Tracker Ireland’ and it’s based on Apple and Google’s private exposure notification API.

Apple Card Users Can Defer Payments Through July

· Andrew Orr · How-To

Apple Card twitter logo

Apple is extending its COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program through July for customers who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

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.