My thoughts on Apple & Google’s COVID-19 contact tracing

From what I’ve read Apple and Google’s COVID-19 contact tracing seems like a good idea and one that I’ll most likely use. It appears to be the best technological solution to date for governmental authorities to partially lift the lockdown orders that are currently in place. That said I do have privacy concerns.

According to the Verge, this is how we’ll use the tracking tool. “Google and Apple are using Bluetooth LE signals for contact tracing. When two people are near each other, their phones can exchange an anonymous identification key, recording that they’ve had close contact. If one person is later diagnosed with COVID-19, they can share that information through an app. The system will notify other users they’ve been close to, so those people can self-quarantine if necessary. Ideally, this means you won’t have to reveal your name, location, or other personal data.”

Apple and Google stress that “user privacy and security is central to the design”. So here’s the best explanation as to how privacy will be protected that I’ve found.

Ars Technica

But while mobile-based contact tracing may be more effective, it also poses a serious threat to individual privacy, since it opens the door to central databases that track the movements and social interactions of potentially millions, and possibly billions, of people. The platform Apple and Google are developing uses an innovative cryptographic scheme that aims to allow the contact tracing to work as scale without posing a risk to the privacy of those who opt into the system.

Privacy advocates—with at least one notable exception—mostly gave the system a qualified approval, saying that while the scheme removed some of the most immediate threats, it may still be open to abuse.

“To their credit, Apple and Google have announced an approach that appears to mitigate the worst privacy and centralization risks, but there is still room for improvement,” Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a statement. “We will remain vigilant moving forward to make sure any contact tracing app remains voluntary and decentralized, and used only for public health purposes and only for the duration of this pandemic.”

Unlike traditional contact tracing, the phone platform doesn’t collect names, locations, or other identifying information. Instead, when two or more users opting into the system come into physical contact, their phones use BLE to swap anonymous identifier beacons. The identifiers—which in technical jargon are known as rolling proximity identifiers—change roughly every 15 minutes to prevent wireless tracking of a device.

As the users move about and come into proximity with others, their phones continue to exchange these anonymous identifiers. Periodically, the users’ devices will also download broadcast beacon identifiers of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in the same local region.

In the event someone reports to the system that she has tested positive, her phone will contact a central server and upload identifiers of all the users she has come into contact with over the last 14 days. The server then pushes a notification to the affected users.

Apple responds to COVID-19 by closing all stores outside of China

Apple’s COVID-19 response

Tim Cook, Writing at Apple Newsroom:

We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27. We are committed to providing exceptional service to our customers. Our online stores are open at http://www.apple.com, or you can download the Apple Store app on the App Store. For service and support, customers can visit support.apple.com. I want to thank our extraordinary Retail teams for their dedication to enriching our customers’ lives. We are all so grateful to you.

In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China. That means team members should work remotely if their job allows, and those whose work requires them to be on site should follow guidance to maximize interpersonal space. Extensive, deep cleaning will continue at all sites. In all our offices, we are rolling out new health screenings and temperature checks.

All of our hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations. We have expanded our leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19 — including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures.

Apple has also switched WWDC 2020 to an all online format.

An iPad with a mouse and trackpad?

9to5 Mac is reporting that sophisticated mouse cursor support is coming to iOS 14 and that new iPad Smart Keyboard models will have a trackpad.

According to code seen by 9to5Mac, Apple is set to roll out rich system-wide support for mouse cursors with iOS 14. Apple added rudimentary compatibility with external mice in iOS 13 Accessibility settings, but iOS 14 (iPadOS 14) will make it mainstream.

The iOS 14 build also referenced two new Smart Keyboard models in development.

The changes coming to the software will bring most of the cursor features you recognize from a Mac desktop experience to iOS.

I love it and I’m looking forward to it. This seems like something that could get me closer to making an iPad my main computing device.

Some thoughts on Apple’s Event – September 10, 2019

This week Apple announced the new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, Apple Watch Series 5, and iPad. With all the rumors floating around over the last few months the announcements weren’t surprising.

Here are my thoughts.

iPhone
I’ll be trading in my iPhone 7 Plus for a new iPhone 11. My 7 Plus is starting to show its age and I’m getting bored with it. I plan on getting the 64GB model for $499 after my 7 Plus trade-in. Colors? Now that’s a hard one. I’ll have to see the actual phones to decide on that one.

iPad
I might also consider the new iPad or iPad Air with a larger display, pencil, and keyboard to replace my 5th generation iPad. I’m finding myself using my iPad more these days so it would be nice to upgrade.

Watch
I just bought my series 4 Watch this last April so no new Watch for me this year.

Jon Gruber on Jony Ive leaving Apple

If you’re into this type of thing, John Gruber’s take on Jony Ive, Apple’s longtime design guru, leaving Apple is a good read. Gruber is the designer and inventor of Markdown. He also writes Daring Fireball, an Apple-focused blog and hosts a related podcast The Talk Show.

Jony Ive Is Leaving Apple

I don’t worry that Apple is in trouble because Jony Ive is leaving; I worry that Apple is in trouble because he’s not being replaced.

Further reading:
Apple’s stock took an $8 billion hit after the news that design chief Jony Ive will be exiting the company

Apple will be just fine without Jony Ive — sorry, Jony

Ive Moves On