back to article India makes contact-tracing app compulsory in viral hot zones despite most local phones not being smart

India has made use of a COVID-19 contact-tracing app compulsory in some parts of the nation. The country yesterday extended its national lockdown for two weeks from today. But the extension is not total: regions that have experienced no new cases at all or none in the last 21 days will be designated “green zones”. But locales …

  1. Saruman the White

    Fool proof!

    ... India’s IT minister has even labelled it “foolproof” ...

    Oh but there are so many very clever fools out there, Minister

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Fool proof!

      And with the stay at home restrictions imposed, those same folks will have plenty of time on their hands to prove you very, very, very wrong.

      "I'm sorry Mister Officer but I *can't* install the app. I don't own a SmartPhone. Will the government give me one for free so that I can, or shall I keep using the only device I can afford which is this simple phone too dumb to do anything but make & take calls?"

      *ChortleCough*

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Fool proof!

      Foolproof: proof to be a fool.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Fool proof!

      S. Korea's online banking once required the use of ActiveX tech WAY beyond the point that even MS was willing to support. The security CRATERS it was responsible for should be a lesson about ANY government mandated "technology".

  2. Oliver Mayes

    There's no chance I'm going to install any of these apps. Rushed through with no oversight, they'll just be a collection of security holes held together with snippets from stack overflow. I also don't put it past any of them to start harvesting and selling off my data the first chance they get.

    1. Andy00ff00

      I think you'll find that's true of most of the software on your phone now.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Could be

        "I think you'll find that's true of most of the software on your phone now."

        I wouldn't be surprised that you're correct since "business ethics" seems even more oxymoronic than usual in our current golden age. My question would be who is buying all this surveillance data. And why. The fact that I went to the hardware store and supermarket last Thursday strikes me as being a data point whose value to anyone is as close to zero as it is possible to come without violating the laws of quantum mechanics.

        1. whitepines Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Could be

          The fact that I went to the hardware store and supermarket last Thursday strikes me as being a data point whose value to anyone is as close to zero as it is possible to come without violating the laws of quantum mechanics.

          Supermarket: Verify sanctioned "healthy lifestyle" purchases were made, if not, send fine due to predicted extra load on NHS.

          Hardware store: Check for council approval on improvements, verify items bought are not used for terrorist purposes or to subvert the state in any way.

          You're just thinking too small! Big Brother is watching...

  3. Smooth Newt Silver badge
    Happy

    There's no chance I'm going to install any of these apps. Rushed through with no oversight, they'll just be a collection of security holes held together with snippets from stack overflow.

    I'll certainly be installing the UK app, on the SIM'med up test phone I don't use.

    How will Daily Express readers and the rest of the intellectually challenged view people refusing to install the app? How will the populists in the Cabinet get behind them? You'll be a Covidiot who is risking all our lives by your thoughtless, selfish behaviour!

    So why risk joining the elderly in being bumped of the list of people who get tests and ventilators. Won't be official policy, of course, but then discrimination never is.

    1. Afernie

      Yeah, this is essentially my strategy too. I'll stick it on a cheapy Alcatel or similar. Might help pass the lockdown time to also use it to investigate what it actually does. Probably things that are embarrassing/criminal/incompetent/inexplicable.

    2. Michael Biddulph

      For years we have been told not to have bluetooth active on your phone in public places as it is a security risk and opens up you to other users in the area who may want to still your personal data. When did this change?

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        We've also been told for years not to go into shops/service stations with a face-covering on. Now, people are pushing for it to be mandatory!

  4. Andy00ff00

    so what *is* the solution?

    It's very easy for us techy folks to point out the flaws in every approach, and take potshots at ministers - who are indeed clueless but hopefully to some extent follow the expert advice available to them.

    But.... there IS NO perfect solution. We have to compromise somewhere between total economic lockdown for a year or so (expensive), lift all restrictions (a fair few people are going to die), or a range of imperfect mitigations to keep the infection rate down.

    Obviously *I* could write a better app than $lowest_bidder, and probably you could too, and actually in this case I'd be tempted to go with Apple/Google's joint effort globally.

    But if you're going to sneer about one aspect, be it security/privacy/whatever, I'd be genuinely interested to know realistically what your proposal is, and projected costs/death rate.

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: so what *is* the solution?

      It's very easy for us techy folks to point out the flaws in every approach, and take potshots at ministers - who are indeed clueless but hopefully to some extent follow the expert advice available to them.

      It's people taking potshots, as you call it, that limits the Government's incompetence. How much more awful do you think their performance would have been if they had not been motivated by criticism of their performance on PPE procurement, testing, care homes etc.

      But if you're going to sneer about one aspect, be it security/privacy/whatever, I'd be genuinely interested to know realistically what your proposal is, and projected costs/death rate.

      No one is objecting to the principle, just the implementation. I simply don't trust my government - and with very good reason. They have nearly infinite resources for this, so there really is no excuse for a shit implementation. They could spend ten billion pounds writing the app if they needed to.

      Whilst I doubt the app will work as well as many people believe - relating Bluetooth signal strength, irrespective of multipath fading and antenna polarization etc, to droplet inhalation, or whatever other transmission methods there are, seems a bit of a leap - but it may work brilliantly. No-one knows, but it's worth a shot.

      On the other hand, it's probably best not to put all your eggs in this particular basket.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: so what *is* the solution?

      Well given the ease with which people will be able to "play around" with stuff on their phones, it does seem the solution is to rely mostly on network data and use the app to provide unreliable but more granular data.

      Now try and sell that to the people; given peoples well-founded wariness of letting state agencies accumulate large amounts of data on them...

    3. Afernie

      Re: so what *is* the solution?

      OK, so:

      There already is an open API supported by the only two mobile OS developers with market penetration that emphasises decentralisation and privacy, and does the job.

      It would be child's play to develop an app quickly and easily that uses it. End of proposal.

      What the government has chosen to do is ignore the decentralisation and privacy offered, and develop a solution that centralises data.

      * All previous evidence would indicate this data will rapidly be abused.

      * All previous evidence would indicate this data will rapidly be compromised by other actors, because a government with a long record of dishonesty and an utter lack of transparency that does not care about your privacy certainly does not care about your security, at the backend or in the app.

      * It should be noted that this is just the first step. Within a matter of months the tracing app will be supplemented by an immunity passport app that records facial biometrics. Access to public places and your workplace will likely depend on your co-operation in using this app. This despite warnings from the W.H.O that immunity passports will not work and provide a false sense of security.

      * Once adoption is made either compulsory or refusal made socially unacceptable, the data gathered will soon be provided to:

      1) Law Enforcement for fishing expeditions, fit-ups, persecution/marginalisation

      2) Security forces for persecution of minorities, and "enemies of the state" (people who who disagree with the government).

      3) Councils and Quangos for an endless bounty of automated and uncontestable fines for various claimed minor infractions

      Of course, any attempt to contest the legalities of this will result in the application of the Civil Contingencies Act. This is an emergency after all.

      So in summary:

      Apple/Google way: decentralised, private contract tracing and warning

      UKGov way: Police State in a box. Just add legislation.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: so what *is* the solution?

      "It's very easy for us techy folks to point out the flaws in every approach, and take potshots at ministers - who are indeed clueless but hopefully to some extent follow the expert advice available to them."

      History would, for the most part, seem to indicate people in power take whatever "advice" leads to feathering their own nests and not for the advancement of a solution to the problem in hand.

      As for 'pointing out flaws', I'd rather that than blindly taking the first 'solution' to hit the table. I'd say that is some form of quality control than simply pointing out flaws.

    5. CommanderGalaxian
      Mushroom

      Re: so what *is* the solution?

      "Those who would give up essential Liberty,

      to purchase a little temporary Safety,

      deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

      1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: so what *is* the solution?

        "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

        This quote would be far less popular if the people who use it knew what Franklin was actually talking about. It is the state's liberty to make laws that Franklin was enthusing over, not the citizens' right to be free of them.

        In 1775, the Penn family pretty much owned all of Pennsylvania, but didn't live there. The Pennsylvania General Assembly wanted to tax the Penns, as huge landowners, to help pay for a war on the Pennsylvania border. The Penn family, not surprisingly, weren't keen and asked the governor to veto the legislation. However, as a small concession, the Penns were prepared to donate a little money to the General Assembly in return for an acknowledgement that they could never be taxed again.

        Franklin was angry. In his quote, the liberty that he wants is that of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to tax its landowners, and the temporary safety was the bung that they had been offered by these tax avoiders in return for a cast-iron guarantee that the Penn's wouldn't ever have to pay out again.*

        So, it actually means the exact opposite of what the people who usually quote it think it means.

        *https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/0921_platform_security_wittes.pdf

        1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: so what *is* the solution?

          Thank you for pointing out its historic context. This does, however, not invalidate nowadays usual meaning. Which in my understanding is not even its opposite if you consider the quote in regard to a "ruling party", whether it's the Penns or the state.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: so what *is* the solution?

          I appreciate this clarification. While I haven't used the quote before (at least I don't remember ever having used it), I've heard it used many times and always assumed it to have been meant in the typical context. I learned something today. Have an upvote.

          However, I must point out that the sentiments, different though they are, still have parallels to this. The liberty being spoken about in the quote were about a government, sure, but they were about a government against an effective power broker, not the people. Meanwhile, the government concerned was democratic. So to some extent, it was still the people (via representatives) against less representative power (big landowners). The same logic can apply with the people against those who have power over them.

    6. magumba

      Re: so what *is* the solution?

      My proposal is free....no 'tracing' app of any kind....the cost again free....the death toll....well if we could get back to recording deaths properly instead of labelling everything possible as crowflu the death toll 'could' be restricted to just people who are funded by bill and melindas depopulation and trillion dollar profit cult and would probably be no more than the pre lockup levels of approximately 1600 a day (all causes,ONS statistics) unfortunately people die every day...but look on the brightside....lots of little people are also born on a daily basis (approx 1800 per day..again ons stats)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: so what *is* the solution?

        I'm a health stats analyst in England, posting ac. In my area last month we saw all cause mortality spike to quadruple the next highest spike for the preceding 23 months. I make no comment on your proposals, but your numbers are nonsense.

      2. Afernie

        Re: so what *is* the solution?

        “funded by bill and melindas depopulation and trillion dollar profit cult”

        Next time you’re typing in the web site address, remember that Infowars begins with an “I”. You know, “I” - for Insanity. “Idiocy” also works.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cumming to a Fascist Government very near you soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >>>Cumming to a Fascist Government very near you soon.

      Bunch or jerks!

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    who will be compelled to download the app

    Or lose the phone.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "India’s IT minister has even labelled it 'foolproof' "

    India’s IT minister is going to learn the truth about fools. There's always a better one.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is all very interesting, but I'm not from, nor do I live in India, so until some such software deployment is deployed to protestors in Michigan, this doesn't really concern me. I have enough trouble with side stepping the over flow of Contract IT Jobs that India can't have outsourced to them, due to being locked down. It's always interesting to hear what is happening elsewhere, but I have more than enough to deal with, here in the USA, with lack of testing and the lifting of Social Distancing guidelines, that I will pass on. Not doing any "gatherings".

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "sounds like a challenge to black hats!"

    Nope, it sounds like a challenge to red teams.

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    Every time any government minister describes almost anything as foolproof, he is proving that many government ministers are fools.

    The current Indian government and the UK governments in general, when they insist on some local flavour of almost anything that is allegedly ' for your own good' are probably using their own version of what truth is.

  11. vtcodger Silver badge

    Stupid question

    I know this must be a stupid question. But if you want to know who called who and when, why would you track that from hundreds of millions of individual cell phones rather than from the call logs from a few (Wikipedia says only six) telecom operators?

    1. Handlebars

      Re: Stupid question

      You want to know who was physically close to whom. You can't catch the 'rona by phoning someone.

  12. The Central Scrutinizer

    Here in Australia, the government is dangling the carrot of earlier easing of restrictions being based on how many people download the covisdafe app. It is not compulsory to download, but that's a sneaky way of sort of trying to make it compulsory. Our PM even likened it to national service or buying war bonds. Seriously? And then there's this thought. https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2020/05/me_on_covad-19_.html

  13. BOFH in Training

    Was in India recently

    They stated that I was in quarantine starting from 4 days after I landed, for a period of 28 days. With people periodically calling me, and coming over to visit and check - those who visit to check either dont wear masks, or dont wear them correctly, with noses uncovered, etc.

    So the first 4 days is not counted in the 28 days.

    Anyway, after the 28 days was over, I was informed that I had to install some stupid app for enforcing quarantine, which again didnt make sense as I was officially over the first 4 days(which for some reason they didn't count) + 28 days quarantine period. Luckily I got away with not installing it cos for some reason it didnt show up when searched for in Google Play Store - it appeared for the local's phones.

    Glad am out of that country now. Lots of clueless people who don't seem to understand what is going on or what to do.

    And of cos the drama with the left hand of the government not knowing what the right hand was doing. Stupid bureaucratic mass.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Was in India recently

      BOFH in Training>>Glad am out of that country now. Lots of clueless people who don't seem to understand what is going on or what to do.

      That could just as easily describe the US or UK?

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Was in India recently

      Not just there. Much of what has been done and is being proposed in many countries is pure "security theatre". Here in the UK it's being suggested that the public should wear "home made" masks when out and about. However NHS staff are supposed to wear professionally made ones that are in short supply, not make their own at home, because there's no warranty that a randomly designed and made one will do any good.

      As far as I can make out the two really effective measure so far are quarantine/self-isolation and social distancing. Several other proposals have been openly described as "to give people confidence". Being confident of a falsehood will not stop you catching the virus.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Was in India recently

        FWIW, the logic behind the mask thing is that medical personnel who are in constant contact with the sick need "N95" level masks that filter incoming air and fit tightly in order to possibly protect themselves.

        The rest of us are to get by with improvised masks that don't protect us much if at all, but which might -- if the wind is fair and the gods are willing -- protect others from any viral droplets we might otherwise be scattering about. Wearing homemade masks is a courtesy to others.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Was in India recently

          It isn't a courtesy to me - I won't have anything to do with someone in public wearing a mask, especially if it is someone I need to communicate with. My hearing problems mean I need to see lips to understand more than 30 per cent of the content in ideal circumstances, and my ASD means I won't trust anyone hiding their face.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Was in India recently

            The cultural aversion to mask wearing is one of the reason the West has such a massive death toll.

            But hey, what's 30,000 dead folk compared to everyone feeling comfortable. Price worth paying;

  14. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Coat

    But will it run Crysis?

    Now to be replaced by "but will it run on Huawei?"

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