In the early months of the pandemic, engineers from Google, Apple and a handful of other tech companies got together to build a system to notify people if they’d come in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, but virtually nobody in America today is using an Apple-Google contact tracing (exposure notification) app.
Gerrit De Vynck and Cat Zakrzewski for The Washington Post:
The tech giants managed to build and launch the “exposure notification” framework in months, a previously unheard-of level of collaboration for the rivals.
It was a “land speed record for software development,” said Myoung Cha, who worked on the project as Apple’s head of strategic health initiatives. He left Apple and became president and chief strategic officer at San Francisco-based health-care start-up Carbon Health in June.
But nearly two years later… adoption of the system is still far behind what its creators and proponents envisioned. More than 20 states don’t use it at all, including large states like Florida and Texas… Even in states where millions have activated the notifications, only a fraction of people who test positive for the virus report it to the Apple and Google system. California’s system, for example, has been activated on more than 15 million devices, but only about 3 percent of the nearly 3.9 million cases reported since launch were logged in the system…
According to Cha, the federal government has repeatedly missed opportunities to get more people to adopt exposure notifications. “The Biden administration, when they came into power, put almost all their chips into the vaccines as their silver bullet to beat the virus,” Cha said. “I think that was strategically the biggest mistake.”
Karen L. Howard, the director of science and technology assessment at the Government Accountability Office, said that she believes more states would have adopted the apps if there was more evidence that they were augmenting contact tracing efforts. But so far, the data is “murky.”
“We don’t have the data to say whether or not they’re effective or could be effective,” said Howard, who co-authored a September study on the benefits and challenges of the apps… “You can’t know whether a notification occurred at a time when you might have been pretty well protected versus not as well protected,” Howard said. “And in addition the states don’t know who downloaded it, where they are located.”
Technovanguard Take: Digital contact tracing is turning out to be nothing more than a charade, as we, of course, quite clearly predicted over a year and a half ago ago:
It was never going to work.
As we’ve written ad infinitum, no matter how convoluted well-designed the Apple-Google contact tracing system is on paper, in practice too few people will install and use it. These apps are designed to provide a digital security blanket to help increase confidence for going back to work more than anything else.
Centralized or decentralized, the whole thing is pie-in-the-sky piffle. Coronavirus contact tracing / exposure notification apps are nothing more than pablum for the masses. It’s simply a case of governments wanting to be able to tell citizens, “Want to feel safe while getting back to work, shopping, going out to eat, vacationing, etc.? There’s an app for that. Don’t worry. Be happy. Download this app and go about your business.”
Might these apps help in some cases to get the relatively few people who will use them to seek testing or self-quarantine if/when the alarm goes off? Of course. But, overall, these apps are little more than security blankets for the citizenry to clutch on their way to herd immunity and, for governments that use a centralized system, to track the spread of infections on the way to herd immunity. — Technovanguard, July 23, 2020
The more we hear about this “system,” the more we are convinced that Apple undertook this obviously quixotic quest in order to get out ahead on digital COVID-19 contact tracing, and drag along perpetual-follower Google, before governments were able to go full throttle on their own Orwellian schemes. — Technovanguard, May 4, 2020
These apps aren’t going to work for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 very well or at all (see why here, here and here), but they are going to provide excellent legal cover, which is necessary, especially in more litigious countries, for all of us to get back to life. – Technovanguard, May 22, 2020
At the very least, and perhaps the primary impetus for the creation of these apps at universities and everywhere else, is that the existence of such apps relieve universities and everyone else from LIABILITY under the law. Look at digital contact tracing apps as a buffer for getting back to school, work, leisure activities, sports, travel, etc. without the fear of being sued.
Schools, restaurants, airlines, retailers, everyone will be able to say: “The apps exist. Not our fault if too few people use them. Get well soon, as do 99.72% (99.91% under age 65) of people who contract COVID-19!”
This is the real reason why digital contact tracing apps exist: Absolvement of legal liability. — Technovanguard, May 22, 2020
More about the myriad issues of Bluetooth COVID-19 contact tracing apps can be found in our Takes here, here, here, and here for just four of many examples.
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