back to article Academics: We hate to ask, but could governments kindly refrain from building giant data-slurping, contact-tracing coronavirus monsters?

Hundreds of academics have warned governments around the world not to commission coronavirus contact-tracing apps that collect and store personal data on entire countries' populations. Published today, the open letter has been signed by professors from 26 countries and urges governments to think about the dangers of building …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    And the non-centralised approach

    Means that if my phone detects that I walked passed a railway line and somebody on the train flagged as positive - I will phone my boss, tell them to fire me and go and voluntarily spend 14days living in the shed away from the family.

    Or I will uninstall the app, and reinstall to get a new "clean" id

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the non-centralised approach

      The intention is you go and get a test, with the results turned around in, at most, a small number of hours.

      Being in the UK we can of course only dream of such efficiency. Without the supporting infrastructure it doesn't matter what approach is taken - the data will be flipping useless.

      1. Elfo74
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: "the data will be flipping useless"

        Well, if you are only considering COVID-19, then: yes, the data from these apps will be useless.

        *must get new keyboard. this one is clearely infected*

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And the non-centralised approach

        Not only does it require a universal testing infrastructure to get it started, once you have that it moves from flipping useless to flipping pointless.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC - Re: And the non-centralised approach

        Oh, no! It's not useless. Not for big time private information slurpers.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the non-centralised approach

        The intention is you go and get a test, with the results turned around in, at most, a small number of hours.

        So, you get a beep that says "you may have been near an infected person, go and get tested".

        You head to your test centre and join the line of other possible infectees, all of whom have the app so your phone detects them all as close encounters. A few hours later you get an "all clear" message, followed by another beep that you've been near a bunch of people who have just tested positive. Please go and get a test.

        Rinse & repeat until you are infected?

        1. Alumoi
          Trollface

          Re: And the non-centralised approach

          Herd immunity, anyone?

          If you can't infect a large number of people those left alive at the end of the pandemic won't be safe.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: And the non-centralised approach

            As yet, there doesn't appear to be any confirmation that once having contracted the virus that you are immune from re-infection or if you are, how long it might last. We're all hoping this might be a one off infection with life-time immunity to this variant, bot no one knows that yet.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the non-centralised approach

      > if my phone detects that I walked passed a railway line and somebody on the train flagged as positive

      No it won't. You need to have received two successive beacon tokens from the other person's phone for you to be considered to have been in contact. The suggestion is that they will be generated at whatever the current "close contact" time is, around 15 mins.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: And the non-centralised approach

        The point remains though:

        If the system detects I might have been exposed - but only I know that result and the risk to me of revealing it (extended quarantine, job loss etc) is greater than the risk of being seriously ill (I'm <80 with no medical issues) then I'm going to ignore/delete it

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And the non-centralised approach

          This just makes you a bit of a dick.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: And the non-centralised approach

            No it may mean I live in a country with no paid sick leave, where I may become homeless if I l lose my "essential but minimum wage" job

            1. Stork Silver badge

              Re: And the non-centralised approach

              Why would you install it in the first place?

              1. veti Silver badge

                Re: And the non-centralised approach

                It may be mandated by your employer or insurer, or some government or other. Although in that case, I would imagine they'd take time to specify what ID details you had to use, and protect continuity of the record - not sure how, but there's probably a way.

          2. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: And the non-centralised approach

            This just makes you a bit of a dick.

            Thank fuck there's almost none of them out there.... oh wait....

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: And the non-centralised approach

          If [I thnk] the risk to me of revealing it ... is greater than the risk of being seriously ill ... then I'm going to ignore/delete it FOAD

          That seems a reasonable interpretation

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: And the non-centralised approach

            is greater than the risk of being seriously ill

            It's not how ill you are going to become, it is how ill is everyone else who you knowingly infect will become, and how many of them will die.

        3. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: And the non-centralised approach

          YES! (why would ANYONE downvote that?)

          the first person who's furloughed or fired for having been NEAR someone that "tested positive" for the Wuhan virus, and "just has to accept it", will prove the point.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Location, location, location

        And when the infected person is in the next house and in an adjacent room.... will this make me a suspect?

        I could be literally 2ft away from them (ttwice he thickness of the walls).

        OTOH, there is a reason that I keep BT switched off.

        1. rcxb Silver badge

          Re: Location, location, location

          there is a reason that I keep BT switched off.

          Oh, that was YOU? Would you mind turning BT back on, lots of people would like to get their internet service back.

          British telecom (BT) customers are facing an issue with cable and internet services, and it is not working for many of the customers. One of the renowned outage tracking websites also confirms the same.

      3. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: And the non-centralised approach

        >whatever the current "close contact" time is, around 15 mins.

        And how does that relate in any way to someone sneezing, coughing or having done that, touching a can of beans on a shelf, or maybe the conveyor belt at the checkout.

        Then look at the spread-vectors. In a supermarket... maybe you pass fifty people, shopping twice per week - that's two hundred people before you show symptoms - if you ever show any.

        The concept is rubbish once you move from "an example with two people" to the real world.

        Its really dumb stuff like this together with really dubious looking things like "hey, we're just going to change the way we record death stats, which will inflate the apparent severity of the problem and stop you from making an accurate assessment of whether the lockdown was required or not" which makes me doubt everything I'm being asked/told to do. Its this kind of rubbish which undermines the whole narrative. It is not ok to lie to people because you think it might save them.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: And the non-centralised approach

          And yet, countries that have implemented a variant of this (e.g. Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea) have had far less problem with COVID-19 than others.

          Yes there are various reasons why it's imperfect on its own. But to be effective it's not used on its own. It works best with efficient and extensive testing and contact tracing, which countries successfully using these tracking apps also have.

          It's no magic bullet by itself and (for me) that's the most important and concerning aspect. Western governments will roll this out (because that's cheap) without investing in conjugate requirements of extensive testing and aggressive contact tracing (because that's expensive), and then act all surprised when it proves ineffective. Cue multiple large repeat waves of infection while they slowly figure out why.

          Yeah we can expect repeat infection waves anyway. Doing this properly will limit the magnitude. Doing this the way UK gov has approached things so far...?

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: And the non-centralised approach

            "And yet, countries that have implemented a variant of this (e.g. Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea) have had far less problem with COVID-19 than others."

            Sorry, this is a FALSE conclusion. Singapore and Taiwan are also VERY close to China and have had a LOT of back/forth travel.

            As has CALIFORNIA, which (surprise, surprise) does NOT have a very high infection or hospitalization rate, especially when compared to New York City.

            And California has had a TON of travel back/forth with China. Case in point: a company I do contract work for [up until the shutdown affected their customers so much THEY had to shut down, too] had sent engineers to China to correct some quality problems, and when they got back I was in the office. One guy got sick and had to go home [fever, coughing]. I joked with him about "infecting everybody" and guess what - a week later [working from home] I had a fever, and then my (adult) kid got a fever, and then I had another fever (the reported 'relapse'?). And each time it was mild, and went away fast. Was that the Wuhan virus? Probably. At that time California was reporting an unusually bad flu season, but of course nothing its hospitals could not handle [which has been demonstrated over the last MONTH or so, "social distancing" notwithstanding, and California's governor started giving away ventilators a while ago].

            But of course, politicians and advocates of CONTROLLING THE POPULATION like this will CLAIM it was "the social distancing" but if this virus HAD BEEN AROUND FOR 3 MONTHS BEFORE ANY SOCIAL DISTANCING then HOW could it be "the factor" ??? I say it was NOT. Most likely it was either a gross overestimation of the Wuhan virus' behavior, OR some level of herd immunity [being exposed to similar kinds of viruses a LOT due to travel to/from China], or perhaps both. And, MUCH lower death rates because U.S. health systems are better than China's overall...

            Same for Taiwan, Singapore, and other nations in the pacific rim. I expect their health systems to be up to par with USA, UK, etc., as another factor in this.

            As for Italy and NYC, there may be a commonality THERE that causes them to be affected MORE than other places. Italy certainly had the frequent travel to/from China, but not so much NYC. However, NYC has a LOT of public transportation usage, and a high density population.

            I mentioned the Stanford study before. As they continue their research, we'll get to the truth on this.

            In any case, check out the REAL commonalities here. With at least ONE good counter example, "draconian anti-privacy phone app tracking" isn't the factor.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: And the non-centralised approach

          that's two hundred people before you show symptoms - if you ever show any.

          The numbers from a compelling Stanford University survey [as reported by the S.F. Chronicle recently] says that the infection rate of the Wuhan virus could be 50 to 85 TIMES HIGHER than expected, mostly people with mild or NO symptoms at all. So take that 200 people, times 85 [for the people who do not show symptoms] and extrapolate the new infection rate...

          Seriously contagious, isn't it? Yet, not so fatal when the denominator is multiplied by 50 [this puts it VERY close to influenza, for which we DO NOT SHUT DOWN, EVAR]. And with those kinds of numbers, tracking "known cases" (one in 50? one in 85? or WORSE?) doesn't sounds so useful any more... [and neither does HUNKER IN YOUR BUNKER or even wearing masks to prevent spreading it]. Though I'd expect if you're coughing or sneezing you should PROBABLY wear a mask... (I would).

          A few weeks from now people are going to realize I was right about this all along. If your infection rates do NOT look like New York City did, or Italy did, chances are they won't. And the USA will have plenty of masks, ventilators, and gloves to share in case they do. [already happening]. So living paranoid about "was I near an infected person" - and a PHONE APP to track you - pointless indeed.

    3. Mike the FlyingRat
      Big Brother

      Re: And the non-centralised approach

      First question... how do they know that someone tested positive was on that train?

      When you test positive... what information is passed on to the government? At what point do they track information that isn't allowed by HIPPA at least in the US.

      There's actually more to this... while the government can get your name because of the social impact of COVID, tracking you by phone is a no no. Not to mention, even w GPS-A, you're going to be off by 100m

      So what happens if you test positive and hunker down in your apartment. Now the neighbors surrounding you are going to be alerted that they are close to someone who's infected, even though they may not be or even close to you ?

      Its a cluster-F in the making.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the non-centralised approach

        Your concerns are sensible, but have mostly been satisfied by the proposed designs of at least some of the contact tracing regimes. In particular the best proposed schemes (e.g. Gapple's) do not encode identity, or location, or even really time. They simply encode a device-device meeting based on a pair of continuously rotating keys. When you are diagnosed, you may (i.e. you may choose not to) upload all your keys for the past 5/10/whatever days to a public broadcast server. From there other devices will download these periodic updates and check, locally on that device, whether there are any matches in its local store of the last 5/10/whatever days.

        Then and only then can you say for certain you came into contact with someone who has since tested positive, but you do not necessarily know who that person is or when or where it happened. There's no need for government involvement and the critical bit of joining the dots can only happen on a device that has received both a broadcast token and has downloaded a corresponding "I have tested positive" token from a central system.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: And the non-centralised approach

      "Or I will uninstall the app"

      that's where you got it right.

      NO privacy violations! [whatever happened to GDPR ???]

      I guess when Henny Penny and Chicken Little decide the SKY IS FALLING, then all privacy-protection bets are OFF.

      I like what the academics warned about this at the beginning of the article, but the "ruling class" elite learned LONG ago that manipulating a population through Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt leaves a LOT of citizens willing to give up freedom for a FALSE sense of security.

  2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Bluetooth has been around for over twenty years and is still a steaming pile of unreliable shite. The chances of anything bluetooth based either saving or destroying the world seem pretty minimal.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Pity the virus is transmitted by 5G rather than bluetooth, we would all be safe

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Ian Johnston

      No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: @Ian Johnston

        No single rain-drop is responsible for the flood.

        Also, flooding is required for growing rice.

    3. AdamWill

      I hv no dea t u ean

      omnt pstd y lutoth

      1. MCMLXV
        Thumb Up

        Upvote. That took me a wee minute to work out :)

  3. David Lewis 2

    Yeah, Right!

    If people didn't trust a government-backed app for fear that data harvested from it could WILL be abused for other purposes...

    FTFY

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, Right!

      And this is the downside from everything that seemed a Good Idea. Trust has to be earned and it's a bit late in the day for governments to discover this.

    2. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: Yeah, Right!

      Not just governments, everyone. All these corporations and government bodies must be wetting themselves with excitement at the amount of data they are going to be able to collect, legitimately and then use to either make money or control people.

      Once the genie is out of the bottle you can never put it back. The trouble is that a large proportion of the population are so conditioned to smart tech being the answer to everything they believe that this is a good idea. The is this notion that tech can somehow prevent COVID19 from spreading. All the tech can do is enable tracing AFTER the event. Just who is going to do the tracing and in the densely populated cities, just how are they going to have the resources. It worked in Singapore because you have a very constrained population that is largely used to taking orders from authority. The population of Singapore is about 6 million, that is lest than London.

      All this goes back to the fact that a huge number of smartphone/smarttech users simply don't give a flying f*ck about privacy, tracking or data handling. Why else do all these idiots use the ridiculous bits of tat other than they can and the fact that it is cool.

      1. Brangdon

        Re: Yeah, Right!

        On controlling people: you apparently don't understand how the Apple/Google proposal works to protect privacy.

        On whether tracing can slow COVID-19's spread: yes it can. Although the tracing starts with someone who is already symptomatic and infectious, it then tracks down people who have been exposed and warns them before they become symptomatic, and hopefully before they become infectious. At any rate, the earlier they are warned the earlier they can stop infecting other people. It doesn't have to be perfect. Anything that reduces R0 helps.

        On the cost of manual tracing: the whole point of the app is to provide some tracing automatically, without needing a lot of resources for manual tracing.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, Right!

      If people didn't trust a government-backed app

      I still haven't heard a good reason why this isn't simply GPS based. Coverage would be immediate and very close to universal. The phone providers simply use their existing databases to provide proximity information for anyone infected to the government - with the government maintaining a central list as it does now.

      Zero civil liberties concerns, though frankly in a pandemic the reality is they are going to take a back seat whether that is what we want or not, and nothing for the government to delete later - they can only abuse the tracking info by falsely adding you to a list, but that can be minimised by publishing the record count of the list alongside the known infected number daily.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: haven't heard a good reason why this isn't simply GPS based

        Ok here's a few that took maybe 3 seconds to arrive at:

        GPS can be wildly innacurate - up to 100 meters error

        Doesn't work well in dense urban environments with lots of tall buildings

        Far more power-hungry than bluetooth

        Requires a constant data connection to know who is in your vicinity at all times, or...

        ... a need to centrally store and analyse the data, along with identifiers, to know whom to alert

        Governements and/or their agencies will abuse this information simply because it exists

        Need I continue...?

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: haven't heard a good reason why this isn't simply GPS based

          GPS can be wildly innacurate - up to 100 meters error

          And yet a GPS track of my morning run is almost 100% accurate, so its evidently possible to work out from the data where someone has walked or ran in most instances.

          Doesn't work well in dense urban environments with lots of tall buildings

          And yet it works perfectly in London which is the densest built city with the highest buildings in the country.

          Far more power-hungry than bluetooth

          And yet a 2 year old phone lasts the whole day still.

          Requires a constant data connection to know who is in your vicinity at all times

          No it doesn't.

          a need to centrally store and analyse the data, along with identifiers, to know whom to alert

          Which they already store anyway.

          Governements and/or their agencies will abuse this information simply because it exists

          They already have access to it and it already exists. My proposal, which is far more accurate than a bluetooth app, simply gives the benefits of the bluetooth app without the government having a copy of the data rather than access to specific records (currently via a warrant).

          So what we've established here is that you have nothing. Literally nothing. So before you go on, take some time and thnk through your response rather than firing off another knee-jerk screed.

          1. dave 76

            Re: haven't heard a good reason why this isn't simply GPS based

            GPS can be wildly innacurate - up to 100 meters error

            And yet a GPS track of my morning run is almost 100% accurate, so its evidently possible to work out from the data where someone has walked or ran in most instances.

            Doesn't work well in dense urban environments with lots of tall buildings

            And yet it works perfectly in London which is the densest built city with the highest buildings in the country.

            GPS doesn't tell you *where* in the building you are though. I don't need an alert that I have been in close contact with someone on level 20 when I live on level 5.

            Bluetooth LE gives you close accuracy, it's not perfect but it is a lot better than GPS.

  4. Pat 11
    Black Helicopters

    Dedicated device

    This should be a tiny disposable wearable.

    1. David Lewis 2
      Unhappy

      Re: Dedicated device

      But in Government Dreamland it will be...

      Tiny, Permanent & Surgically Implanted.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Dedicated device

        This is why we have sci-fi.

        To teach us the stupidity of such things before it happens and ensure we don't go down that route.

        I'm going to be the the one who shows up on the video cameras, but with an error label because the phone is missing.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Dedicated device

      "This should be a tiny disposable wearable."

      That's a bad idea pretty much whatever you think about the plan. Please consult the following list and choose the rebuttal based on what you think about the idea of tracking contact.

      Tracking's great and everyone should do it: With a small disposable device, people will forget to check that it's charged. When they do charge it, it will be away from them and they might do something without it. It might break. In order to sync keys out, it will need a connection to something, probably either WiFi or Bluetooth, which makes it tricky to set up. You have to get one to everybody which is harder than digital delivery of an app.

      Tracking's terrible and we should disobey en masse: With a small dedicated device, it becomes easy to verify if someone is complying with tracking. Police could ask to look at it and make it a crime not to have one on you. If the device has a connection, they will know any time you don't have it on. If it doesn't have a connection, there will be the ability to suggest random enforcement checks. With a hardware device, most likely with completely closed firmware, it won't be easy to investigate it, either to understand what it's doing or how to get around it.

      Tracking is bad, but in this case a necessary evil: The small device has many downsides compared to a mobile app, see the rebuttal for "tracking's great". It also may lead to additional surveillance afterward, see the rebuttal for "tracking's terrible".

      I have to live with tracking: This works in addition to any other opinions you have selected in this list. If we do need to do tracking, and it's done with a device, you need to remember to charge it. To check whether it's working. To not wear it in a place where it gets wet when you wash your hands (I'm assuming they don't make it waterproof because they want them cheap and disposable). To sync it with the key storage place or the key-retrieval-and-checking program on your computer or phone.

  5. steelpillow Silver badge

    Personal convenience

    Judging by the slap-happy trails of some, many who get tested positive for the virus but still feel active will simply leave their mobes at home or switch off the app. How many will want to risk a reminder of what they already know perfectly well, that "You shouldn't be here", followed by a bunch of cops in bunny suits?

    Armbands with a virus logo would be a better warning than some stupid app, plus a law to bang you up in solitary if you are caught without it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Personal convenience

      Or just make people who are positive wear torn clothes a ring a bell as they pass.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Personal convenience

        Can't we have little coloured badges sewn onto our clothes?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC - Re: Personal convenience

          Rest assured, we're getting there! Instead of a colored star or triangle it will be an app or a certificate and instead of your coat it will be on your personal mobile phone. It will be cool, it will be trendy, 2.0, new paradigm etc. but it will serve the exact same purpose. This time with increased efficiency.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: @AC - Personal convenience

            So is it going to be like the government ID cards that were only going to be required to be carried by criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists ?

          2. Stork Silver badge

            Re: @AC - Personal convenience

            And not having a smartphone with you is the new walking around naked

  6. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    What's the worst that could happen?

    It won't do what it should, can't be effectively implemented, poses huge privacy issues, will arrive late, over budget, will have huge costs for no gain, will only funnel tax payer's money into the pockets of the usual suspects and at best provide another database for the security services.

    It's certain to get government approval.

  7. Someone Else Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Academics: We hate to ask, but could governments kindly refrain ...

    It's a sad statement on the current state of affairs that these august folks would even have to do this.

  8. Claverhouse Silver badge

    There's nothing like a group letter from academics to put a fire under governments.

  9. Qumefox

    If there's one thing every government and politician knows, it's never waste a good crisis.

    Regardless of what the outcome of the covid-19 pandemic is, you can rest assured that the vast majority of rules and legislation passed during it it won't be in the best interests of the general population.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Qumefox

      https://despair.com/collections/posters/products/government?variant=2457297091

    2. veti Silver badge

      If you insist on electing psychopaths to lead you, then that's gonna happen.

      How's about we try voting for people we, y'know, trust?

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Intrigued to hear your suggestions on how to implement that...

        Typically the only people that run for office should never be in office.

        Certainly for high office, it's really rare to find anyone not in it for themselves.

        And since elections only care about those who bother to vote, anyone not voting is effectively ignored even when non-voters becomes (or is) the significant majority.

      2. Pete4000uk

        Where would we find these trustworthy people?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >Where would we find these trustworthy people?

          From their refusal to run for any sort of office

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "How's about we try voting for people we, y'know, trust?"

        What? You mean vote for people who promise to drain the swamp? That worked well.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Deep swamp

          The swamp is apparently deep

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All your place are belong to us.

  11. osakajin Bronze badge

    Population monitoring is the end game.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Obviously the governments are going to build data slurping apps that collect the data centrally, after all the virus has scuppered their plans to track everyone with facial recognition tech due to the number of people now wearing facial masks making that mute, so they need another way of tracking what people are doing.

  14. bigtreeman

    permissions

    I look at permissions whenever I install an app on my phone,

    if I don't like their permissions I don't install the app.

    This app has about the lightest footprint I've seen for quite a while,

    but I still won't be using it.

    (copy&paste)

    This app has access to:

    Location

    approximate location (network-based)

    precise location (GPS and network-based)

    Other

    receive data from Internet

    view network connections

    full network access

    prevent device from sleeping

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: permissions

      Which app are you talking about ?

      The European one is at the design stage and already being torpedoed by conflicting views, so you certainly didn't download that, it doesn't exist yet.

      The UK app is a pipe dream and will only be available in 2025, after using up £250 million and failing to actually manage BlueTooth to record contacts.

      So, are you talking about the Singapour one and, if so, why should we care since we're not going to use that one ?

  15. Magani
    Big Brother

    In the Antipodean version...

    ... this is the Minister for Home Affairs and failed Prime Ministerial coup leader, P. Dutton, Esq's wet dream. Despite earnest statements from gummint mouthpieces who promise that this data collection will all end when the Coronavirus problem has concluded, this is just as believable as the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa et al.

    All they see is loads of location (and other?) data for ASIO and other agencies to troll through at their leisure, and possibly share with their Five Eyes buddies.

    Yet another reason to keep Bluetooth turned OFF.

    1. The Central Scrutinizer

      Re: In the Antipodean version...

      The central problem is that we have been shafted over and over again. Metadata retention, the encryption back door legislation, the My Health Record fiasco, etc. Why the fuck would we voluntarily install a government mandated app, just because Scotty from marketing asks us to? Successive governments have consistently and maliciously undermined the publc's trust in them. Now they have the gall to tell us that this is a big "Team Australia" moment and to just trust them. Not. Gonna. Happen.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: In the Antipodean version...

      Seriously, why won't it end when the pandemic ends?

      What do you think the government is going to say, then, that will inspire people not only to keep the app installed on their phones, with full permissions, but also to keep Bluetooth on 24/7, with the added battery drain that imposes?

      And reinstall the same app with the same ID on each new phone they get?

      If there were a central database being maintained by a process we had no power to control, then sure, I'd worry about that. But that's the opposite of what this article is talking about.

      I know there's a popular right-wing talking point that says "governments never voluntarily give up power". But, at least as far as western sorta-democracies are concerned, that's bullshit. Governments take up extra powers during an emergency, then lay them down afterwards, all the time. It's happened in every major natural and non-natural disaster for the past century.

    3. chrisw67

      Re: Finally?

      I had to laugh at the irony in, one the one hand, assuring us the data would be secure and not used for other purposes, and on the other, passing the application through the Australian Signals Directorate (think GCHQ or NSA data-slurp central) for their imprimatur. Might be completely innocent use of their IT security expertise, but it is nonetheless a great way to feed the conspiracy theories.

    4. kiwimuso
      Joke

      Re: In the Antipodean version... @Magani

      " this is just as believable as the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa et al."

      Oi! You leave our Jacinda out of this.

  16. amolbk

    This letter sponsored by...

    Corporates building giant data-slurping, contact-tracing social monsters.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Register, never miss an opportunity to slag off Apple

    "Google and Apple, two companies not known for their devotion to privacy"

    Last I heard, Apple explicitly doesn't sell my data and has been consistently "unable to help" law enforcement in cracking open iPhones.

    Google incl. Android are well, evil.

    Am I missing something?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Register, never miss an opportunity to slag off Apple

      -2 so, apparently not

  18. Displacement Activity
    Meh

    Are we still reporting 'letters from academics', then?

    While you're at it, I would rather like to hear Bob Geldof's view. And perhaps Lily Allen.

  19. Mike 137 Silver badge
    FAIL

    "The letter, full details of which El Reg can't publish"

    "The letter, full details of which El Reg can't publish because our version has people's email addresses baked into it for media use,"

    How about a redacted version? Should be quite easy to obscure the email addresses.

    Alternatively, how about a link to the source? On the other hand, if it's been intentionally published as an open letter, the "personal information" in it has been released voluntarily into the public domain.

    This is of such vital importance that El Reg should make every reasonable effort to let us see it, one way or another.

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