Apple and Google want to turn your phone into a Covid-tracking machine
The new contact-tracing tool, explained.
Apple and Google recently announced a joint plan to create an app for iPhones and Androids that will allow them to keep a record of every other phone they’ve come in close contact with – contact tracing, in other words. This functionality will use Bluetooth technology.
Apple will officially make the contact tracing API available to software developers building apps that employ it on behalf of public health agencies. However, one major challenge with the app is privacy. But experts have said that the data would be stored on each individual phone and include no names or location information, only a “key” identifier exclusive to each nearby contact. These identifiers would be rotated on a randomized basis to prevent long-term tracking.
Ameesh Divatia, CEO and co-founder of data privacy firm Baffle:
“It is very encouraging to see Apple and Google coming together to develop this capability along with the adoption of the decentralized approach. However, the major stumbling block will be to assure users that opting in does not imply giving up their privacy. Privacy-Preserving Analytics (PPA) capabilities make it is possible to have multiple entities contribute sensitive data that can be processed without ever revealing the underlying data values or compromising privacy. PPA is the ability to derive business benefits from a set of data records that are too sensitive to process in the clear.
PPA can be used when data needs to be analyzed by different people who do not want to share data due to security concerns. It also offers a way to ensure that a data set doesn’t uncover an individual’s contributions or reveal encryption keys. Techniques such as anonymization, tokenization, masking, differential privacy, and homomorphic encryption are all examples of PPA.
The key takeaway is that we have a framework that allows us to maintain security and preserve privacy for analysis without compromising data utility. Accomplishing this will be pivotal to the success of this very important initiative to not only save lives but also maintain peoples’ privacy in the process. “