Everyone Agrees That Contact Tracing Apps Are Key To Bringing COVID-19 Under Control; Iceland Has Tried Them, And Isn't So Sure

from the solution-or-solutionism? dept

Given the massive impact that the coronavirus is having on life and the economy around the world, it's no wonder that governments are desperately searching for ways to bring the disease under control. One popular option is to use Bluetooth-based contact tracing apps on smartphones to find out who might be at risk from people nearby who are already infected. Dozens of countries are taking this route. Such is the evident utility of this approach, that even rivals like Apple and Google are willing to work together on a contact tracing app framework to help the battle against the disease. Although it's great to see all this public-spirited activity in the tech world, there's a slight problem with this approach: nobody knows whether it will actually help.

That makes the early experience of Iceland in using contact tracing apps invaluable. An article in the MIT Technology Review notes that Iceland released its Rakning C-19 app in early April, and persuaded 38% of Iceland's population of 364,000 population to download it. Here's what this nation found in its pioneering use of a tracing app:

despite this early deployment and widespread use, one senior figure in the country's covid-19 response says the real impact of Rakning C-19 has been small, compared with manual tracing techniques like phone calls.

"The technology is more or less … I wouldn’t say useless," says Gestur Pàlmason, a detective inspector with the Icelandic Police Service who is overseeing contact tracing efforts. "But it's the integration of the two that gives you results. I would say it [Rakning] has proven useful in a few cases, but it wasn’t a game changer for us."

It's only one data point, of course, but it's an important one. Iceland was not only early in tackling the coronavirus, it has done so with great success. And yet it seems that the contact tracing app played a relatively small part in that. Manual tracing techniques, by contrast, were absolutely key.

That's not to say other countries may not have more success with their apps. It's interesting to note, for example, that Iceland's Rakning C-19 tracks users' GPS data in order to establish where they have been, and who they met with. It's generally agreed that GPS information is too coarse for this, and that a Bluetooth approach should, in theory, provide better insights. It will be interesting to hear how apps based on Bluetooth interactions work in practice. Maybe they will provide the hoped-for means to bring the COVID-19 virus under control. Let's hope so, and that the eager embrace by governments of contact tracing apps is not just another example of "solutionism" -- the idea that any problem can be solved simply by throwing technology at it.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Filed Under: contact tracing, covid-19, gps, iceland, rakning


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 3:36am

    For many governments contract tracing is a solution to a problem, but corona virus is not that problem, just an excuse to implement the tracing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mvario (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 3:45am

    Neither is Bruce Schneier

    He basically considers them theatre and worthless.
    https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2020/05/me_on_covad-19_.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Hero, 14 May 2020 @ 11:11am

      Re: Neither is Bruce Schneier

      Thanks for posting this link. I was going to unless I saw someone else had already beat me to it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 4:00am

    On the one hand, it's obvious that an app won't be a panacea. On the other hand contract tracing itself will be very important as lockdowns are reduced and more targeted methods become feasible.

    I'm not sure that Iceland, with its remote location and a small and fairly centralised population (1/3 of the population live in Reykjavík). I'd imagine that phone calls and other tactics would be more effective there than there would be on a larger, more diverse population that tend to travel further and more frequently internally. I will be interested in the result from other countries, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MathFox, 14 May 2020 @ 7:44am

      I am sure that an app can help tracking contacts (with all limitations inherent in bluetooth); but an app by itself doesn't do much.
      How does one integrate the app with the rest of healthcare procedures like testing, (self-) quarantine, etc.

      Iceland is an outlier with a high number of covid-tested people and a sufficient low number of infections to make manual contact-tracking feasible. I don't know how the Iceland result would translate to a country with a more chaotic approach (like the US).

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:02am

        Re:

        Yes, it will track differently in Iceland for any number of reasons, from my understanding of the country. I think back to some commutes I've had to some jobs I've had, and I'd laugh if anyone phoned me up to account for any contacts I might have had. I wouldn't have a clue who most of the people I've been near were.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    genghis_uk (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 4:11am

    Although given Iceland's population and distribution, this is the equivalent of looking at a single medium sized town in the rest of the world.

    As most of Iceland is uninhabitable, almost everyone lives in Reykjavic and surrounding towns with very little travel outside of the region so it is probable that more normal contact tracing methods are effective. I am not sure if this would scale to most European countries or America where cities have orders of magnitude greater population and significant movement between population centres.

    Don't get me wrong, I will have a contact tracing app on my phone when they remove it from my cold, dead fingers but I am not sure that Iceland it really that representative.

    To give a sense of scale, the UK is trialling the NHS contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight (a tiny blob just off the south coast). With a population of 140k it is very similar to Reykjavic city and is considered a small scale experiment to test the operation of the app and the database (because, of course the UK wants a databse!!) on an island with little mobility. It would probably be easier to trace using phone calls etc. here too but not on a UK scale.

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    • icon
      genghis_uk (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 4:12am

      Re:

      Looks like PaulT beat me to it while I was typing...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 4:51am

        Re: Re:

        Haha no worries, it happens!
        I'll also be interested in the results of the IoW trial, but that's not going to capture how it will operate when people are returning to work, commuting via major transport hubs across different cities and so on, or when they're returning to driving 30 mins-1 hour to get to Ikea and the like. Phone calls are all well and good, but there's a point where that won't be able to capture useful data, and that's where we need to find out if the apps are a good substitute.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 4:40am

    Yeah, it's not even close to useful

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 5:46am

    nope

    Segregation doesn't cure viral infections!
    Fight Me

    Time to get a flip phone

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 5:57am

      Re: nope

      Thank you for the clear illustration of why phone app contact tracing is ineffective.

      You could, though, have made points like "not everybody carries a phone, let alone a phone that can run apps, let alone a phone that runs the app that connects to YOUR app."

      But that would require more words.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 7:05am

        Re: Re: nope

        How is tracking who is/isn't infected going to cure the viral infection?
        Do you know how many asymptomatic Corona carriers there are?

        I don't want anyone else to get sick or killed by Corona, but tell me how the money and effort spent developing and maintaining tracking apps and databases isn't better spent working on...A CURE.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 6:12am

      Re: nope

      "Segregation doesn't cure viral infections"

      No shit, who's saying it does? They do say that it reduces the number of people being infected, but that's undeniable demonstrated scientific fact and not really under discussion for people who understand what's happening.

      "Fight Me"

      Nah, I'm a sane mature adult, I'd rather stay as far from you as possible.

      "Time to get a flip phone"

      Cool, then if they want to track you they have to use other methods that still tie directly to your phone connection.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 6:39am

        Re: Re: nope

        Most people who want these shut downs to continue are also still getting a paycheck/retirement check/dividends/etc.
        Meanwhile the government is basically printing fiat-bitcoins (in that the US$ no longer has a gold backing), and increasing the US deficit for future generations.

        Don't worry, though. I'm sure you have enough gun & ammo to fight off your hungry (because their not allowed to work) neighbors. Maybe you're the exception, maybe you're actually donating to Feed America and/or your local food bank.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 7:16am

          Re: Re: Re: nope

          No, I'm actually not in the US, so I can laugh at your woeful response and gun fetish while slowly getting back to normality.

          "Most people who want these shut downs to continue are also still getting a paycheck/retirement check/dividends/etc."

          Cite, or is that just something you tell yourself to pretend there aren't serious concerns about the dangers of opening back up too soon?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 8:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

            You can site it yourself, Mr.T.
            Are you still getting paid during this shutdown, Paul?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:54am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

              "You can site it yourself"

              No, I won't cite your claim for you. I will just assume you're lying about your figures.

              "Are you still getting paid during this shutdown, Paul?"

              Yes, given that I am lucky enough to remain employed at this time and my role does not involve physically accessing anything. I have much empathy for those not so fortunate.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 9:37am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                I have some citations, though I don't know that he'll like them.

                https://xkcd.com/2305/
                https://xkcd.com/2305/sources/

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 10:46am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 11:41am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                  Unless I'm missing something, that article not only fails to address what I asked for a cite for, but largely repeats the points in the article we're commenting on.

                  Do you have a cite for your actual claim?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 11:10am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                Are you donating to your local food bank type charity, Paul?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 11:25am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                  Are you?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 11:58am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                    Gold doesn't mean shit, and if you are worried about the government inventing money, banks invent more.

                    I think phone tracking apps are oretty stupid and ineffective as well, but not as stupid as you.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 11:39am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                  Yes, I am. Are you?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 1:38pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                    Sure you are, Paul...sure you are...that's why you were so quick to bring up that point. You'd better be prepared to give more, since you don't want people to go back to work. You do fit the stereotypical "i got mine, you get yours" attitude though.

                    Both issues are import: peoples health & the economy. If either one is extrapolated to their worst case scenario, nobody wins.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 10:47pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                      "Sure you are, Paul...sure you are...that's why you were so quick to bring up that point."

                      As I figured, you're incapable of an honest argument, so no matter how much truth I state you will ignore it.

                      "You do fit the stereotypical "i got mine, you get yours" attitude though."

                      By saying everyone is entitled to aid during this time of need until they can safely return to normality, in opposition to your "we need to sacrifice lives for the economy" attitude?

                      "If either one is extrapolated to their worst case scenario, nobody wins."

                      ...and if more realistic scenarios are considered, opening up the economy too soon will be disastrous for both. The economy isn't going to be protected if you cause a second wave of the pandemic. Just look at what happened when you opened up too soon in the last pandemic.

                      Anyway, you enjoy your apocalyptic fantasies. I'm expecting further announcements where I am about how much more we can open up safely, because the government were more interested in lives than the stock market and the blame game when it mattered.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2020 @ 3:08am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                        Paul and I are not from America so our experience is somewhat different.
                        In Europe, we were hit earlier than the US and have been in lockdown for longer but we do not have the same attitude to Government. There is a definite dislike of Government 'interfering' in the lives of Americans while Europeans are generally ok with it - Scandinavians even more so.

                        This is, however, a two way street. Yes we are locked down and, while not overly happy about it we are not protesting about having our freedoms removed. The reason is because we are not as concerned about our livelihood. In the UK, anyone on furlough is being paid 80% of their wages by the Government and European employment laws reduce mass layoffs. We have some poverty issues but we do not have the long lines of people at food banks that the US has.
                        In normal times we are seen as left-wing socialists by a lot of Americans but that is exactly what is needed right now - without central Government (or even State level) support a lot of America is hurting so there is a strong drive to get back to work and ignore the death toll. I get it but the experiences either side of the Atlantic are different.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          PaulT (profile), 15 May 2020 @ 5:37am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                          "Yes we are locked down and, while not overly happy about it we are not protesting about having our freedoms removed"

                          Well, in fairness there have been protests in Madrid and a few other places in the last week. This is, however, due to a rather complex set of issues and anger at other parts of Spain being able to open up earlier than Madrid, not people chanting about haircuts and gyms.

                          There are of course serious concerns in the US, but the protests in Madrid have been rather different in appearance than the American ones, and arguably more justified as we have been locked down harder and longer than most other places at this point.

                          "there is a strong drive to get back to work and ignore the death toll"

                          There is. But with the amount of misinformation being driven by Trump and the attacks on the few people around him that are actually using science rather than politics to address the issue, I don't honestly believe that the people demanding that have a real grasp on what they're demanding. Sadly, the American right do seem to operate on the idea that if something doesn't affect them personally then it doesn't matter, and some of them are in for a rude awakening if they are given what they're asking for.

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • identicon
                          Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2020 @ 6:27am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                          Thanks for your informative response; it's refreshing in light of Paul's hyperbolic pre-drawn conclusions. I never new that the UK government was paying the furloughed 80% of their wages--that's pretty sweet. I don't know if it's sustainable though. I think of all of the awesome car companies that originated in the UK, but are now just mere shells of their former selves; now owned by foreign (non UK) companies. This, however, could be completely unrelated to the semi-socialist set up over there.

                          Ideally, I'd prefer to see something like the year of Jubilie (as described in the Bible) where all debts are cancelled. Think of it as a national/international bankruptcy; a universal financial reset where (post Corona) we all just start over with 0 debt. I have no idea if or how this could actually be implemented, though. Instead, it just seems like most are just falling further and further into debt, in an (already) debt driven economy.

                          Concerning the US reopening, I want it to be done carefully and correctly, with minimal (preferably 0) loss of life. That most likely means gradually reopening the least infected sections first, seeing how that goes for a few weeks, and then gradually reopening more sections.

                          At this point, we're all just arm chair virologists and epidemiologists. None of us knows the future. I pray that God continues to give us wisdom and grace.

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                          • identicon
                            Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2020 @ 7:31am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nope

                            " I pray that God continues to give us wisdom and grace."
                            Continue? You imply that the response to the present pandemic has been with wisdom and grace? Maybe in some locales where local officials took the reins and performed their sworn duties ..... but not at the national level here in the us or in china, those "leaders" have make the situation much worse than it should have been. Very disgusting display of human greed, ambition and general disregard for everything but themselves. Is it time to overturn some tables?

                            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 7:38am

          Re: Re: Re: nope

          You did not answer the question, who says it does?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 May 2020 @ 6:00am

          Re: Re: Re: nope

          "Meanwhile the government is basically printing fiat-bitcoins (in that the US$ no longer has a gold backing), and increasing the US deficit for future generations."

          I guess there's something to be said about having a social safety net and an economy not built like a min-maxed jenga tower. I must say I don't really envy americans who, given how their society is constructed, must now choose between feeding their children and not dying in disease.

          It's not exactly the sort of choice a human being living in the G20 ought to be facing. What I sort of find bizarre is that people in the US deliberately chose that way of life.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 7:35am

      Re: nope

      "Segregation doesn't cure viral infections!"

      Well, of course not.
      When you are already infected the segregation (aka self isolate) is for the protection of others, not you.

      There is not fight here, you are wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 5:53am

    Re:

    Sorry, providing a link to a word salad article that has no relation to the blog post just isn't going to fly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 6:05am

    Selfies, police, scams, privacy, inconsistency

    There are issues with implementation, enforcement, scams, privacy and inconsistency.

    https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covi d-19/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions

    Q: Why aren’t blood centers testing donors for SARS-CoV-2?

    A: At this time, the FDA does not recommend using laboratory tests to screen blood. Someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, is not healthy enough to donate blood. Standard screening processes already in place will mean that someone with these symptoms will not be allowed to donate.

    https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0839_article

    Coronavirus 2 RNA Detected in Blood Donations

    Original Publication Date: April 03, 2020

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 6:30am

    No Contact Tracing for Blood Banks

    (FDA's link for Guidelines for Blood Establishments does not work.)

    https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/safety-availability-biologics/updated-informatio n-blood-establishments-regarding-novel-coronavirus-outbreak

    But they can be found on the blood bank website.

    http://www.aabb.org/advocacy/regulatorygovernment/Documents/COVID-19-Toolkit.pdf

    This toolkit (posted 03 18 2020) was updated to align with FDA’s March 11th Updated Information for Blood Establishments Regarding the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.
    ...
    This toolkit continues to provide information on the optional precautionary measures which are not regulatory requirements.
    FDA has removed any mention of self-deferral for travel.
    ...
    FDA continues to report:
    ✓ “The potential for transfusion transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is unknown at this time.”

    ✓ Respiratory viruses, in general, are “not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus.”

    ✓ “Routine blood donor screening measures that are already in place should prevent individuals with clinical respiratory infections from donating blood. For example, blood donors must be in good health and have a normal temperature on the day of donation (21 CFR 630.10).”

    [NOTE to consider:
    ➢ The FDA does not consider COVID-19 a transfusion-transmitted infection, nor an RTTI, under 21 CFR 630.3 which provides a significant part of the regulatory framework for donor screening requirements in 630.10.

    ➢ Therefore, the agency has issued considerations, but not recommendations, to be implemented at the discretion of the Medical Director. FDA has no expectations for compliance with the March 11th communication.]

    FDA provided the following new information:
    1- “FDA recognizes that deferral solely for travel to areas with cases of COVID-19 may not be feasible.”

    [NOTE to consider:
    ➢ FDA no longer references the optional use of “donor educational materials to instruct individuals to self-defer” for travel to “areas with COVID-19 outbreaks” which was included in the February 4th communication.

    ➢ With sustained/on-going transmission in the US, FDA has made clear that the optional deferral for travel may be discontinued.

    2- “Laboratory testing to screen asymptomatic blood donors is not recommended by FDA at this time because detection of SARS-CoV-2 is only seen in severely ill patients, not in asymptomatic individuals.

    (There is only search result for this quote.)

    https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1VFKB_enUS804US812&biw=1093&bih=526&ei=DEW9X sT6I7KlytMPjLCRuAg&q=%22Laboratory+testing+to+screen+asymptomatic+blood+donors+is+not+recommende d%22+by+FDA+at+this+time+because+detection+of+SARS-CoV-2+is+only+seen+in+severely+ill+patients%2C+no t+in+asymptomatic+individuals.&oq=%22Laboratory+testing+to+screen+asymptomatic+blood+donors+is+n ot+recommended%22+by+FDA+at+this+time+because+detection+of+SARS-CoV-2+is+only+seen+in+severely+ill+p atients%2C+not+in+asymptomatic+individuals.&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQAzIECAAQRzIECAAQR1Cud1inuwFg1cYBa ABwAXgAgAEAiAEAkgEAmAECoAEBqgEHZ3dzLXdpeg&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwjEsO22uLPpAhWyknIEHQxYBI cQ4dUDCAw&uact=5

    FDA has made the following changes in the March 11th updated considerations:
    1- “Blood establishments may wish to consider donor educational materials to instruct individuals to self-defer and refrain from blood donation if they have:

    ▪ cared for, lived with, or otherwise had close contact with individuals diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19…” OR

    ▪ “been diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19.”
    [NOTE to consider:

    ➢ FDA removed the reference to travel that was in the February 4th communication, leaving these two considerations for self-deferral.


    So, there is "self-deferral" for blood donors with risk factors, but the states are training volunteer investigators to enforce contact tracing out in the community?

    And voluntary reporting of sickness after the donor gives blood? based on the rest of the guidelines.

    And voluntary tossing of the contaminated blood, if and when the donor reports sickness? based on the rest of the guidance.

    But the police come knocking at the door when a girl stranded in a foreign country didn't answer her phone because the batter was dead, and she was flagged to be contact traced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    127.0.0.1 (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 6:34am

    Isle of Wight

    Yes, I am on the Isle of Guineapigs.

    No, the UK's app doesn't work on any of my 3 functional phones.

    And I shall not be buying a new phone - until it has a blinding UV flash, a 2 metre force field, an EMP bluetooth chip, and a siren that warns me when it detects the virus, and/or antibodies thereto, at fifty paces.

    Meanwhile, I shall stay at home and avoid homo sapiens, politicians, experts and bats, of whatever sexual persuasion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 7:12am

      Re: Isle of Wight

      "Yes, I am on the Isle of Guineapigs"

      Would you rather that it be rolled out without testing, or are you just bitter that you live on the most logical place for the initial tests to take place?

      "Meanwhile, I shall stay at home"

      If you're choosing to do that, then you don't need the app anyway. Why are you complaining?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      A. Lien, 14 May 2020 @ 11:31am

      Re: Isle of Wight

      And I shall not be buying a new phone - until it has a blinding UV flash, a 2 metre force field, an EMP bluetooth chip, and a siren that warns me when it detects the virus, and/or antibodies thereto, at fifty paces.

      We have one of those. It even has 12g capability and serves as a ground-to-orbit communicator. But you'd have to go through quarantine for me to give it to you.

      ... and our quarantine facilities are around Proxima Centauri. Just to be sure, you know.

      Give us a call before you head out. We'll save you a cell.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Code Monkey (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 6:42am

    Filed under

    Interesting that this blog post wasn't also filed under "Security" and/or "Data Privacy"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 6:49am

    "Everyone"?

    I came here to question why that obviously-wrong statement was in a headline, and found that most people here agree that it is close to useless.

    Contact tracing could have helped in the very early stages, but it's nearly useless now. And smartphone-location-based contact tracing is an absurd misapplication of the technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TFG, 14 May 2020 @ 8:17am

      Re:

      Contact tracing's utility depends heavily on what stage of the pandemic you're in - note, I'm not talking about the app-base version of it, just the practice of contact tracing. During early times, when the illness is not already wild in the community, it is very important as it allows you to figure out who is potentially infected and isolate them, so as to prevent the wider spread of the virus.

      IIRC, Taiwan has utilized it, in conjunction with other methods, to do exactly that.

      In the US, it's utility depends heavily, again, on where you are and how big of a foothold the virus already has. In hotbeds like NYC, or other heavily impacted urban centers, no, it's not much use at the present time, since the ability to isolate only those who are potentially infected and curb the spread that way is already gone. For those places, the lockdowns are necessary, because the set of "potentially infected" may as well be "everybody."

      It's in the places where there isn't already community transmission that rigorous testing and contact tracing has a major role to play. If you have your relatively isolated small town, or any community where it hasn't entered just yet, you can keep it from getting a major foothold by testing to catch the first vector, contract trace to see other potential vectors, and isolate those folks in particular.

      It will also be useful as the number of infections reduces. Hotbeds can eventually return to locations that are relatively free of a virus. When that happens, and the need for a lockdown eases, testing and contact tracing once again has a major role to play in the prevention of a second/third/fourth wave, if done properly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 9:10am

        Re: Re:

        To put it more simply - tests and contact tracing at the early stages would have prevented the need for lockdown. That was missed, for various reasons, so to stop disastrous exponential spread, we've got to where we are now.

        If things open back up again without tests and contact tracing, then you run the risk of a second wave, which nobody wants (the second wave of the Spanish flu killed way more than the first), and a necessary return to total lockdown. So, instead, you open up slowly, testing as many people as possible then when an infection is caught you perform contact tracing and only lock down the people likely to have been exposed rather than the whole state/country.

        It would have been useful in the beginning, but it's equally vital now if we wish to get people back to as close to normal as possible without sliding back into the current state.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 7:02am

    Cows and their numbered ear tags

    Cows and their numbered ear tags.
    Come get your bright yellow numbered ear tags you bovine-humans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 7:16am

    Covid-19 versus cholera

    The issue of tracking/targeting people carrying disease isn't new.

    Long before Covid-19 came along, cholera existed. Cholera kills over 100,000 people a year globally (last I checked). There are unfortunate individuals who are known as "carriers". In those people the cholera is present and persistent in the long term, but manifests itself in few outward symptoms. The disease is contagious to others.

    None the less, the cholera carrying suffers still have civil rights. They have the ability to move freely and the right not to be tracked against their will, despite the threat to others. Officially there are no concentration camps for cholera carriers in the U. S. (I hope that is true).

    Therefore, the legal basis for compulsory tracking of possible Covid-19 carriers is likely sketchy at best (IANAL). There are likely good grounds to legally fight any coercive tracking demands, government or otherwise.

    If I'm correct regarding the difficulty of coercive tactics, then what is left is voluntary choice for those who own a phone that has the capability. The requirement for voluntary and an expensive enough phone will reduce the percentage of the population who can be tracked.

    Therefore, disregarding those craven cowards who for their own fear want every one tracked, are there enough people available to be tracked to make the time, effort and money of tracking useful?

    Is it likely that the tracking app has other ulterior possibilities? Who would gain from such possibilities?

    BTW, look carefully. There have been reports of Covid-19 being transmitted to pet dogs (from the CDC) and to big cats (lion/tigers) from a keeper in a zoo. If Covid-19 can move to these, then it is likely that Covid-19 can move to their wild peers (wolves, foxes, coyotes, feral cats, mountain lions). Once Covid-19 is established in the wild, it can return year after year, not unlike West Nile Virus or Influenza. (For the nit-pickers, yes there are technical differences).

    Does any sensible individual want a permanent surveillance system tracking most of us all the time? Certainly many not so sensible people appear to want one.

    Be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rockstar (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:19am

    True

    Indian PM recently launched an app that basically tracks the Location and acts accordingly.I agree with the PM. No matter you have to leave your daily work Protection is most important. Even big shopping companies halt their work for some duration

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tz1 (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 8:46am

    Wrong Virus

    The Coronavirus cannot be contact traced, at least once it gets out which it has. We would do better by locking down nursing homes and providing similar for the vulnerable (well over half the deaths) instead of forcing them to accept infected patients so they can kill have the residents as they do in NJ, NY, and PA. 1. Many cases are asymptomatic, and you can't trace someone who has no appearance of being infectious (or confuse an allergy attack). How do you trace something invisible? 2. There is a long incubation period so you have to find EVERYONE they contacted - consider subways, sidewalks, etc where there is no ID for the last 21 days. How do you trace everyone in 2 meters over the last 3 weeks? 3. Assume you could find these millions of invisible men, what is the cost of testing (and false positives and negatives)? 4. If you aren't in one of the vulnerable groups, the worst you are likely to suffer is a mild flu. So we are going to lock down and do massive testing of everyone who won't die or even go to the doctor because of the Virus while forcing the vulnerable locations like Nursing Homes to accept the infectious people? What is the point in contact tracing if we are just going to weaponize them by sending them to kill a lot of uninfected vulnerable people? And the last pandemic with many deaths - AIDS/HIV - we SUCCESSSFULLY contact traced most infections to gay bathhouses. Then mayor, Diane Feinstein, refused to close them for a YEAR! Tens of thousands eventually died. AIDS was slow but still easy to trace because it required specific acts and contact, not someone coughing while walking by you on the street. Instead of warning the vulnerable to avoid the things spreading it, we worried suburban housewives with "anyone can get AIDS". We don't have the political will, and there is the constitution and economic damage (avoid plague, die from famine and war). Contact Tracing will be like the TSA, but perhaps we can get rid of the TSA in the airports where they only find one of every 20 guns when audited, they might find one in 20 patient zeros if they do the contact tracing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 11:42am

      Re: Wrong Virus

      "The Coronavirus cannot be contact traced"

      It's always nice when someone states obvious nonsense upfront, it helps to avoid wasting time on worthless walls of text.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2020 @ 12:57pm

      Re: Wrong Virus

      "The Coronavirus cannot be contact traced"

      I do not think any of those proposing contact tracing had in mind the tracing of the actual virus, as you point out - that is not something we as humans are yet capable of.

      What they are talking about (obviously) is tracing contacts, as in who have you been within six feet of after having contracted the disease. Known cases where the patient has the virus ... these people and their contacts are traced, not the virus.

      "We would do better by locking down nursing homes and providing similar for the vulnerable"
      The horses have already left the barn, better close the doors.

      Didn't read the remaining wall-o-text

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 14 May 2020 @ 4:31pm

    Strange how ..

    Some people think tech can do anything/everything.
    Wondering around in public, and a device that Pings out a signal 30+ feet wide, and noticing every phone around them...
    Is this a good thing?
    But does the phone tell you that person has the Bug?

    Can you see, a warning popping up that the person 30 foot away is contagious? WHICH PERSON??
    OR, that contagious person(who told the phone) has his phone ALARM go off to tell everyone around them, (30 feet) THAT person is contagious..and not at home suffering how it should be, or even in the hospital.
    Confusing isnt it..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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