How Apple and Google will cure COVID-19 and how you can opt into it if you want to keep your job
I was on Al Jazeera Live today and spoke about why Apple and Google teaming up to offer a Contact Tracing Framework from iOS and Android devices is worrying to say the least.
These two US companies, between them, control what we can and cannot do on 99% of the world’s everyday mobile devices. We are talking about a de facto monopoly on the bounds of human communication.
There will not be a magic silver bullet app to rid humanity of COVID-19.
Google’s business model is to track you: when you use their products and services and both on and off the web and to collate all this information, analyse it, and use their intimate insight into your life to manipulate your behaviour. Google is a surveillance capitalist.
Could an app like this be built in a decentralised manner so only the people using it are informed? Yes. But don’t expect that of Big Tech, the epitome of centralisation.
Even if this framework protects your privacy to some degree today and is opt-in, what will happen once it’s on every iOS and Android device and governments want to start easing the lockdown and you’re told “we’d love you to go back to work but you need to opt in to using the contact tracing framework to do so.” Well, you’ll still have a choice. You can choose not to work. (After all, what are we, China?)
Given that we’re not China, Apple would never tolerate abuses of its platform. Turns out, though, that if you’re a Saudi man who wants to track his wife, there’s an app for that and Apple’s fine with having it in their App Store. I guess it’s good that those developers will have some new native APIs to improve their app with.
A contact tracing framework isn’t just for COVID-19…
I am going to reiterate what I said in my previous interview: The hard-won civil liberties we hand over today out of fear will not be easy to regain, if we do regain them at all.
Remember that the framework isn’t called the COVID-19 Contact Tracing Framework. It’s called the Contact Tracing Framework.
Once this is up and running, there are a lot of people who will want to get their hands on that data eventually. Don’t forget that the type of data collected is the same kind of data that the United States government uses to decide who is and isn’t a terrorist before ordering them killed using drone strikes.