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Apple, Google announce new privacy features for coronavirus tracking tech – CNET

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

As companies and governments around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic, Apple and Google are making changes to the contact tracing technology they’ve developed to help inform people when they may have been exposed to the virus.

The contact tracing technology, which the two companies have been working on for a little over a month, was initially designed to help people alert one another if someone they were in contact with over a 14-day period was diagnosed with the coronavirus. When the project was first announced, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google head Sundar Pichai promised the technology would be built with privacy in mind.


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The technology basically works by helping Apple iPhones or devices powered by Google’s Android software communicate with one another. They do this by sending signals to one another over Bluetooth radio that are stored on the phones. If someone is then confirmed as having the coronavirus, their phones send out a new signal alerting all the phones they’d come in contact with over the preceding 14 days. 

Apple’s and Google’s efforts are just the latest ways big tech companies have been working to help fight the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 200,000 people around the world, and infected more than 2.7 million people.

Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet, last month launched a website that gives people in California information about virus testing. The website, developed in partnership with the White House, lets people fill in symptoms and complete an online screener. 

Google also last month said it’s committing more than $800 million to help small businesses and crisis responders dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Apple and Google have both also begun making and distributing protective equipment for health care workers.

Now with this new coronavirus tracing technology, two of Silicon Valley’s biggest rivals are hoping to help create apps that’ll help us regain a sense of normalcy as we wait for a vaccine or other ways to fight the virus.

New privacy protections

Apple and Google said the technology will be opt-in, meaning it won’t be turned on by default. The companies will offer programming tools to developers in mid-May, allowing health authorities to build apps with this new technology. Then Apple and Google plan to offer software updates to the more than 2 billion active devices around the world using their software by the end of the year. 

Apple said that includes any phone that can power iOS 13, the company’s latest software, which runs on devices as far back as the iPhone 6S, which was initially released in 2015.

The companies began discussing the project two weeks ago, sharing initial planning documents publicly to offer security researchers, partners and critics a way to begin vetting the technology.

To ensure further security, Apple and Google said they’d change the contact tracing program to use better encryption, scrambling any identifying information to ensure people cannot be tracked. The companies are also protecting any potentially identifiable information about a person’s phone, such as which model of phone they’re using or the signal strength of their transmissions. 

Apple and Google are looking to health officials to build apps, the companies said, but they’ll also provide assistance. The companies said it’ll be easy to build an app for this project. And for health officials who don’t want to build their own, they’ll be able to use a premade app that can be rebranded.

Call it ‘exposure notification’

The companies are also changing the terminology they’re using, moving away from the widely used term “contact tracing,” which could heighten anxieties of people worried about their privacy. Instead, they’re calling this system “exposure notification,” saying it better describes the functionality of the program while the companies shift to emphasizing that the program is “privacy-preserving.”

Whether Apple’s and Google’s software will ultimately win over people is still unclear. The companies admitted they don’t know the minimum number of people opting in that’s necessary for the system to be effective. Experts believe at least half the population would have to opt in, meaning the companies would need to convince potentially billions of people to sign up.

As part of their efforts to entice people, Apple and Google have promised to dismantle the system when the coronavirus crisis passes. That will include shutting down the application programming interface, or API, built to work with public health apps being built.

“The promise that Apple and Google will shut the API off is very welcome,” Jennifer Stisa Granick, the ACLU’s surveillance and cybersecurity counsel, said earlier this month. “We just want to make sure that this is something that’s verifiable, and that there will be an independent review to make sure the commitments they’ve made is something they’re living up to.” 

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Apple seeks on having the iPhone replace your passport and driver's license – gizmochina

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Apple‘s latest goal is to make the iPhone your sole means of identification by replacing passports, driver’s licenses, and others. This is another step from the Cupertino based giant to make the iPhone the only thing anyone would require.

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Recently, Apple had also announced a plan to get rid of car keys and, now, the company is planning on getting rid of the need for passports and other forms of physical identification. The iPhone has already replaced the needs for notepads, cameras, pens and a lot more. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when the company says it wants to take your IDs to the digital realms.

According to a series of patent applications that are titled “Providing Verified Claims of User Identity,” the user’s ID can be recorded or transmitted. In other words, the patent details a system that stores the identification on your device. The description reads that “A device implementing a system for using a verified claim of identity includes at least one processor configured to receive a verified claim including information to identify a user of a device. The verified claim being signed by a server based on verification of the information by an identity verification provider separate from the server, the verified claim is specific to the device.”

Apple

This patent also mentions the use of servers for verification of one’s identity. So, a device such as an iPhone could securely transmit ID. This ID can be verified through the server and the device’s biometric sensors as well. Meaning, the entire system can have multiple ways of verifying your identity as well. It seems like a promising feature on paper but it’s still too soon to tell.

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Apple and ad industry clash over iOS 14 popup seeking permission for tracking – 9to5Mac

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Apple and the ad industry are once again in conflict, as ad associations object to the way iOS 14 seeks user permission for tracking.

It’s not the first time this has happened – Apple’s adoption of Intelligent Tracking Prevention led to criticism by the ad industry back in 2018

Background

Advertisers like to measure the effectiveness of their ads by working out how many people who purchase a product have seen an online ad for it. To do this, a cookie is dropped on the user’s device when they see an ad, and the website where the purchase is made can check for the presence of that cookie.

Conversely, if you visit a website about (eg) drones, the site can drop a cookie, and ad networks like those run by Google and Facebook can check for that cookie and then serve you ads for drones. This is why you often see ads relating to topics you’ve recently been researching.

This type of tailored advertising is more likely to be effective, so ad networks can charge more for displaying personalized ads.

Advertisers don’t know who you are – they don’t know the identity of the person who saw the ad or visited the website – they just know that the same person (actually, device) did both.

iOS 14 approach to seeking permission for tracking

In iOS 14, if an app wants to show tailored ads, it must display a popup asking permission from the user.

Reuters reports that the complaint stems from Apple not adopting a permission standard required by law in Europe. This means that apps with European users will need to seek the same permission twice, once with a GDPR-compliant request, and again with Apple’s request. Advertisers fear this will make it seem a bigger deal than it is, and lead to more users refusing permission.

Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook Inc and Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now need to ask for permission twice, increasing the risk users will refuse, the associations argued.

Facebook and Google are the largest among thousands of companies that track online consumers to pick up on their habits and interests and serve them relevant ads.

Apple rejects the criticism because it already offers a tool to help advertisers measure effectiveness.

Apple engineers also said last week the company will bolster a free Apple-made tool that uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure whether advertising campaigns are working and that will not trigger the pop-up.

“Because it’s engineered to not track users, there’s no need to request permission to track,” Brandon Van Ryswyk, an Apple privacy engineer, said in a video session explaining the measurement tool to developers.

Attitudes to personalized ads vary, some preferring relevant ads to generic ones, while others object to what they consider a privacy breach.

I’ve argued in the past that online advertising is a hot mess, and that we really need agreed standards laid down in law.

I’m personally of the view that I don’t mind anonymised tracking. I’m a decisive shopper, so generally it only results in me being shown ads for things I’ve recently bought, but I have nothing against the principle. Others disagree, and strongly object to the practice. But I don’t have strong views either way: let’s allow it or ban it – the important thing is to agree in law what is and isn’t allowed.

With ad standards legislation in place, we can finally get rid of the most obnoxious forms of advertising, and put an end to the war of escalation between ever-more aggressive brands and ever more fed-up consumers.

Part of this would involve giving websites greater control over the ads inserted by ad networks like Google. Currently, for example, you will occasionally see scam ads on sites like ours because they make it through Google’s checks. We can only block them reactively, when we spot them or a reader reports them. Legal controls would make them far less likely to make it into an ad network in the first place.

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After NBA 2K21, more publishers are considering raising game prices to $70 on PS5 and Xbox Series X – VG247

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NBA 2K21 may only be the first AAA game whose base price jumps to $70 on next-gen consoles.

This week, 2K Games revealed new details about the upcoming NBA 2K21. In the press release, the publisher confirmed that the game’s standard edition will be priced $70 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, making it the first AAA game to commit to higher pricing on next-gen consoles.

This doesn’t appear to be an isolated decision. According to research company IDG, other publishers are also considering raising the base price of their AAA games to $70, a $10 increase.

“The last time that next-gen launch software pricing went up was in 2005 and 2006, when it went from $49.99 to $59.99 at the start of the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation,” IDG CEO Yoshio Osaki told Gamesindustry. “During that time, the costs and prices in other affiliated verticals have gone up.”

Osaki explained that the price of admission across other competing industries has risen considerably over the years, but not in video games. The CEO cited cinema ticket prices, Netflix and cable subscriptions as examples, but neglected to mention that video games have a multitude of other ways to monetise users after the fact, such as DLC, microtransactions and several other forms of recurring revenue.

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“Even with the increase to $69.99 for next-gen, that price increase from 2005 to 2020 next-gen is only up 17%, far lower than the other comparisons,” Osaki went on.

“While the cost of development and publishing have gone up, and pricing in other entertainment verticals has also gone up substantially, next-gen software pricing has not reflected these increases. $59.99 to $69.99 does not even cover these other cost increases completely, but does move it more in the proper direction.”

Osaki, however, doesn’t think that $70 will become the new minimum price for every game, just the biggest and highest-profile. Indeed, the move is already being considered by other publishers, according to IDG’s research.

“IDG works with all major game publishers, and our channel checks indicate that other publishers are also exploring moving their next-gen pricing up on certain franchises, for the same reasons outlined above,” Osaki added.

“Not every game should garner the $69.99 price point on next-gen, but flagship AAAs such as NBA 2K merit this pricing more than others.”

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