2020 has been quite the party pooper. As if the first half of the year wasn’t bad enough, the remaining months threaten to be equally brutal. If nothing, the pandemic has at least forced the world into rethinking tech. An obvious offshoot has been an upsurge in coronavirus related mobile applications. While most have heralded these applications, are these coronavirus apps really a reason for yayy, or not? Get questioning.
Evergreen privacy concerns
This is quite the elephant in the room. Debates around the coronavirus apps have mostly centered around privacy concerns. With a large amount being fed into these apps, where is all the data going? A number of countries have chosen the centralised approach – where the government by and large is in charge of the data collected. India’s Aarogya Setu for example, stores data in a centralised server and keeps data of positive cases for 60 days. Countries like France,China and South Korea fare quite high when it comes to data surveillance as well. However, Germany, Italy and Japan have opted for a more decentralised approach thanks to Google and Apple. These two from the ‘Big Five’ have developed quite a favoured application that is favoured for being more reliable and privacy-guaranteeing. Why are the governments getting it wrong then? Perhaps these tech companies listen to their consumers.
How intrusive are these apps really? Probably a better question to ask is, how intrusive can they GET really? While apps like those in Israel and China use GPS as well as Bluetooth technology, ones in places like Singapore and the UK use only Bluetooth. The GPS enabled ones use the phone’s movements and methods like triangulation from nearby cell towers to look for a person’s contacts. Bluetooth uses ‘proximity tracking’ where encrypted data is swapped from phones. The latte is considered more anonymous, privacy wise. The Google/Apple API allows iOS and Android phones to communicate with each other using Bluetooth.
However the ball starts rolling only on matters of installation. While countries like India have made the coronavirus app partially mandatory, it’s a must for every South Korean to wear the tracking bracelet. Fun info – if you’re an infected person in Turkey, the state will share all your information with the security forces. Wowza.
It’s all learning in process. To begin with, not all countries have streamlined, single platform apps. And the world is mushrooming with coronavirus apps.The US for example recently launched three separate coronavirus apps in the states of North Dakota, Wyoming and Alabama. But success stories of these apps across the globe are hunky-dory too. Countries like the Republic of Ireland claimed that 91 percent of its app users received a “close contact exposure alert”. On the other hand Germany’s Corona-Warn-App was criticized for not sending in timely notifications.
Beware of the fakes!
Not just tracing apps – oximeter apps are having a field day too. The raging pandemic brings us new insights by the day. And doctors have stressed on early referrals to deal with complications like low oxygen saturation levels. Newly developed apps claim to use their phone light or even the fingerprints of the users to detect oxygen levels. Such biometric data can easily be misused to access a barrage of information and gateways.
Final verdict – each one, gives one.
The end of the game brings us back to square one. Not completely erasing the utility of apps, over dependence isn’t vital too. While contant tracing and exposure warning apps may be necessary, other measures are crucial. Social distancing, closure of indoor spaces and following quarantine advice to name a few. No one’s really going out giving us black and white judgements. But if I were to answer personally, more the measures the merrier!
You think otherwise? Let us know!