Ping


This week Justin Trudeau announced implementation of a Canadian COVID-19 tracking app. Deemed ‘voluntary”, currently testing in Ontario, apparently available nation-wide on July 2nd, COVID Alert is hailed as an anonymous tracking app which pings subscribers with alerts when coming in close contact with consensual participants testing positive for COVID-19.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/coronavirus-contact-tracing-app-ontario_ca_5eebbfdec5b6d9234ce7b795

Sorry Canada. If you think I’m going to voluntarily download a COVID tracing app affording supposed “anonymous” Bluetooth access to daily activities with promise of a ping when coming in close contact to someone testing positive for COVID-19 – you have another thing coming!

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Sweet mercy, surely contact tracing apps raise more red flags than my own?

Pandemic App


Yesterday Google and Apple announced partnership details pertaining to development of a COVID-19 tracking app. When launched, the opt-in platform would use Bluetooth to keep tabs on your whereabouts and interaction with personal contacts. Ostensibly to send email alerts if anyone you’ve had close contact with tests positive for COVID-19. The fine print explains –

“It works a bit like exchanging contact information with everyone you meet, except everything is designed to be anonymous and automatic. Instead of contact info, your smartphone will periodically exchange anonymized tracing keys with nearby devices. Both devices maintain a list of the keys they’ve collected on a cloud server, and when one person reports an infection, they have the option of sending an alert to people they’ve recently been in contact with. That alert will share information for what those people should do next.” From https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/10/21216675/apple-google-covid-coronavirus-contact-tracing-app

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In a perfect pandemic world, unprecedented solidarity between competing tech giants might be considered admirable. Trouble being, ours is anything but a perfect world and  red flags flap in the wind. Second phase of the Google/Apple partnership involves contact tracking functionality built in to Android and Apple phone operating systems. Excuse me? I urge you to read the link above.

NameTag


How would you feel about total strangers using facial recognition technology to access your facebook page, perform a criminal record check and learn where you worked or lived? Facial Network.com developed an app, currently being tested by Google Glass that does just that. Heralded as the most advanced facial recognition technology outside national security’s bag of tricks – NameTag asks “Why leave meeting amazing people up to chance?” urging us to “simply snap a pic of someone you want to connect and see their entire online presence in one place”. Forget informed consent and privacy settings – if you’ve put it online, all bets are off.

http://www.nametag.ws/

Why mess around with pedestrian snooping – quaintly innocent Google name searches are for sissies. Who needs a name when soon we’ll be able to creep into lives of unsuspecting strangers. Imagine the fun marginally stable stalkers can have – second thoughts and hesitation be damned. Think of facial “tagging” – data bases of hits bought and sold for marketing.

Consider other facial recognition applications – 115 Japanese stores use facial recognition technology to alert shopkeepers when a shoplifter, or my favorite “complainer” enters the premise. Complainers have no say in the matter.

https://www.privacyassociation.org/publications/facial_recognition_data_shared_among_115_stores

Want a date? Match.com and Plenty of Fish can eliminate awkward first encounters – run your crush through the sexual offender and criminal data bases – false positives and mismatches needn’t concern you, mistakes happen all the time.  No skin off your back – tell all your friends, spread the name around, after all you have proof – your CreepSheild app told you so. CreepSheild takes the position all queries must give results; call it the “closest approximation syndrome”. Up pops a face and name – skittish users dismiss 45% probability as a minor detail.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/creepshield-claims-to-out-the-creeps-in-online-dating/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=2

As for NameTag – Google Glass says the program is only available for beta testers – Google announced this is where it stays (making it clear they felt it contravened privacy rules) That said, a little digging around produced numerous invitations to download NameTag.

http://www.downloadnametag.com/

A little ray of sunshine promises an option to “opt out” – so far all I can find are vague references to “soon” being able to scream no thanks by creating a NameTag opt out profile. Far from thrilling is the idea we have to give up personal information to supposedly dodge uninvited peepers.

Before long, no one alive will know privacy. Problem solving, mystery, discovery, patience, solitude – all lost to gimmicks touted as revolutionary. We don’t need to “connect” with strangers after peering in their dusty corners. Technology aimed at dysfunctional social media junkies doesn’t make the world a better place, all it does is eradicate foundations of human interaction.

Until recently, “big brother” was a concept with definable parameters. Disturbing, hard to digest, yet able to reside in well lit corners of my mind.  I recognized where it came from, how it was able to infiltrate, and why we shouldn’t take our eyes off it. Suddenly a rogue upstart arrives – disguising itself as salvation. The government at least tries to pass itself off as a necessary evil – NameTag only wants to make money. Pondering unregulated, profit driven privacy violations raises absurdity to a whole new level.

 

 

Perception of Privacy


We were out for dinner with our daughter last night and the conversation landed on Google Glass. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Google Glass, this is a concept known as ubiquitous computing; the idea of fitting computers to every day objects rather than people having to go to computers. Android and smart phones already fill this bill, in many ways eliminating the need for bulky desktops.Google Glass aims to take this a step further by allowing the user to interface with a pair of sunglasses. Google is in talks with manufacturers like Ray Ban, but adds that their goal is for this modular device to attach itself to prescription glasses as well.

Our daughter enthused about the concept for a few minutes, until my husband asked her if she realized the problem with them. A moment of silence followed, we could see her impatience grow – just short of rolling her eyes she relented and asked what the problem might be.

He explained how Google Glass put the GPS in our phones to shame. This device would allow not only our position but every word we spoke, person we met, or conversation we had to be on record. Google Glass is “big brothers” dream come true. A birds eye view of everything we did in a day.

I’ve had a day to ponder her reaction and conclude there was nothing exceptional about it. As alarming as it seemed to my husband and myself, I’ve realized we hail from an era where privacy was truly private. Not that there was the slightest hint of privacy around the single land line in the kitchen, at least when leaving the house I was untraceable. My children have never lived in a world where they didn’t “ping” off a cell phone tower or instant message their friends. Every purchase we make is tracked by store point cards, we “like” on facebook to receive coupons or join discount clubs, we customize the news received – all carefully monitored and digested by big business.

I have nothing against progress – simply hoping we realize the price we pay. My perception of privacy is based on impossibly outdated concepts; I can’t expect my children to understand the freedom of complete privacy. nor could I resist the opportunity to point out the perils of yet another privacy robbing device.