Pandemics or Contact Tracing?

Contact Tracing; A new term is emerging timidly, both at the table of internet giants and at the table of lovers of theories that may be hiding behind it. Personally, I am against any conspiracy theory, unless it proves to be a theory. Now we have the ability to verify anything that is said, in a matter of seconds.

Ο algorithm it is relatively simple, they call it "internet" and now we have it in our pocket! As long as we have a draft source that we trust, we can refer to it and immediately form an opinion about something specific!

And immediately a problem arises! Which source is considered trusted? This is now everyone's personal and many factors play a role in what each of us considers "trustworthy" and what is not. Personally, I would like to complete one more question. Do we all need to know everything? This has to do with our species and it has been answered many times by Yuval Noah Harari, so I refer you there. In ours now!

What is Contact Tracing?

Its translation is "Contact Tracing" and it emerged in the middle (still in progress) of the latest global event, which is none other than that of the new coronavirus pandemic.

What is the idea of ​​the project?

The project is based on the protection of citizens (currently from the new coronavirus) notifying each user through an application, if someone with whom he came in contact in the previous days has been diagnosed positive in the virus, then the app will notify you what to do the test. Only this, without further information.

Contact tracing

Who is involved in the project?

In terms of hardware, both Apple and Google are involved in the project and I think it is the part that we need to look at a little more. Below I will list two sequence diagrams.

What is a sequence diagram?

In short, a sequence diagram is one of the many ways (UML) used by a software engineer, or team of software architects, to tell an application's operators how they interact over time and what messages they exchange. We do not need to know anything more about this information.

In the juice

Contact Tracing: The whole project has to do with the use of bluetooth on mobile devices. As we all know there has always been a bluetooth connection problem between an iOS device and an Android. For this project, Apple and Google decided to configure a function of bluetooth, low-consumption resources so that the battery does not empty its use, so that devices can communicate with each other. The idea of ​​how the devices will communicate, what information they will exchange, where this information will be stored, what encryption there will be and all that, are shown in the diagrams below.

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How are contacts stored?

The framework generates personal encrypted user codes for each device, which change every few seconds, but are only stored in the memory of our device. At that date and time you had that code.

Contact tracing

As shown in the diagram above, all devices that come into contact with each other store this encrypted user code locally, neither in Apple or Google databases, nor in government databases, nor anywhere. Only on our device. But, if someone sees our user password and there is a case to follow us through it, this will be done for a few seconds because then it will change automatically.

Notice that we came in contact with a positive case

In my opinion, the most important thing is whether the framework will communicate with the internet. According to the diagram below no, all data will be stored locally, ie on our device. The only communication he will have with the network (shown as Cloud in the diagram) is for the user to enter a key, which will be reasonably provided by the health authorities when he is diagnosed positive in the virus test.

Contact tracing

As soon as someone receives the special key that is positive for the virus and enters it into the application, then and only then does the device refer to those users who came in contact and notify them that some of their contact was found to be positive for the virus and should to do the test. In no case do not leak personal user data, because they simply have not been disclosed to any app. The only notice will be that we have to do the test.

Why is bluetooth used for this project?

Because there is more accuracy in direct contact, which is how the virus spreads. If GPS were used for this project, with the accuracy it has, imagine what would happen when there were 100 people in an apartment building. He would say that everything came in contact with each other, which is not the case.

The moral side of things

We all know that big decisions and decisions that require years of discussion, pass more easily in times of crisis. Remember how many security protocols were introduced in 2001 after the terrorist attacks in the USA. Protocols that changed the way we live, otherwise there would be no reason to discuss it.

The idea of ​​a Contact Tracing project is simple and I say simple, because now humanity has the tools to do something like that. I am referring to the collection and analysis of "Big Data". Big Data is nothing more than the collection and analysis of large volumes of data, so large that if this technology existed during the Cold War, the course of history would be completely different.

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Let me take a look back! What the KGB and the US Secret Service have been searching for throughout the Cold War for 45 years is nothing more than intelligence gathering, but more importantly, a way of analyzing that information. A lot of collected information was lost, not to mention most .. Why? Because quite simply there was no automation that exists today for their analysis.

Also what exists now and did not exist then is the constant control, both by specialized and independent organizations, as well as by associations of countries eg EU. There are many controls and fines in international internet companies for reasons of monopoly or misuse user data.

But are these capable of protecting us? Absolutely NO! Let's not forget that the biggest data traffic between Google and Facebook is done with our consent! And it is done entirely for the advertising exploitation of user data.

At the moment what Google can find out is what we searched for and where we clicked. And through it, with keywords, it places ads on us depending on what we searched for and what we saw last. Imagine for public health reasons sometime in the future (or for health and fitness reasons I say now) to allow devices such as bracelets, watches, etc. to access our biostatistics, such as our heart rate, pulse and our blood pressure. To know in a few words when we are anxious, what we look at when we are anxious, if we like what we look at, if we laugh or rejoice when we look at something specific, etc. Then the current control of our personal data will be just like discovering fire. We are talking about a completely different control and influence.

In conclusion 

All this can only be prevented through information and continuing education. None of the above can be predicted individually, except collectively. The pandemic was a punch in the stomach of globalization that showed how vulnerable the system is.

How something that happens in a province of China that most of us have heard for the first time, can keep residents of countries and cities locked in their homes a few thousand kilometers away. But if we want to be part of this world and its evolution, some things can only be corrected collectively.

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