At a glance.
- White House COVID-19 task force expected to wind down at the end of May.
- Contact tracing: the UK.
- Contact tracing: India.
- The challenges of getting buy-in for voluntary exposure notification and tracing.
White House COVID-19 task force expected to wind down at the end of May.
CNN reports that the US Presidential task force assembled to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to wind up its work at the end of May. The end of the task force's work is expected to be gradual, not sharp and discontinuous, and it's unclear what if any body might succeed it.
Contact tracing: the UK.
As contact tracing apps begin to roll out, they face two principal challenges: privacy and efficacy. Centralized tracing systems (like the one currently being piloted in the UK on the Isle of Wight) have drawn more concern than decentralized exposure notification systems like that developed by Apple and Google.
In the UK, the National Health Service is working to address privacy concerns about its app. NHS intends to form an ethics board to oversee use of the data it collects, and, the Guardian adds, NHS is mulling the establishment of a sunset clause that would lead to deletion of the data once they're no longer needed. But concerns remain about the security of the information that will be held in the central data repository however long NHS needs to retain it.
Contact tracing: India.
India's government has denied that its own contact tracing system, the Aarogya Setu App, has a vulnerability that exposes the data it collects to compromise. Outlook India reports that the government evaluated the claims of a French white hat hacker to having found that Aarogya Setu would expose sensitive personal information. The government's answer to the research points out that much of the information the researcher complained about, including certain forms of geolocation, were already public, and that in other respects the data were properly secured.
The challenges of getting buy-in for voluntary exposure notification and tracing.
The second major issue in contact tracing policy is that of efficacy. SecurityWeek lists various points of skepticism, especially those that suggest the possibility of high false positive rates. Forbes discusses a more basic problem. If, as has generally been the case, the contact tracing and exposure notification apps are intended to be installed voluntarily, and if the system depends upon self-reporting of symptoms or diagnoses, they'll depend upon widespread public cooperation. But to be effective that cooperation needs to extend to about 60% of the population. Narrowed to smart phone users, who of course are the ones being tracked and notified, that fraction rises to 80%. That's about the best market penetration WhatsApp has achieved during its best years. It seems unlikely that a contact tracing app will quickly beat WhatsApp with consumers. Effectiveness seems to be in tension with voluntary participation.