France is pressing Apple to let its forthcoming coronavirus contract-tracing app work in the background on iPhones without building in the privacy measures the US company wants.
The country’s digital minister confirmed the request in an interview given to Bloomberg.
France’s system would let it glean more information about participating smartphone owners than Apple and its partner Google want to allow.
Privacy experts view it as a test case.
“Apple has no reason to agree to this demand and it would open the door to many other requests from other countries and entities,” Prof Olivier Blazy from the country’s University of Limoges, told BBC News.
“As a Frenchman, I think it would be useful to avoid being dependent on the Google-Apple solution but I think it’s strange that the government strategy relies on trying to convince Apple to do something that is against its interest, with no incentive to do so.”
Apple and Google announced on 10 April they were working together to provide a software building-block – known as an application programming interface (API) – that will let authorised Covid-19 contact-tracing apps work more efficiently.
Contact-tracing apps work by logging every time two or more users are close to each other for a substantial period of time.
If one device owner is subsequently diagnosed as being likely to have the virus, an alert can be sent to those they could have infected, who might be asked to self-isolate.
By using such an app in conjunction with other measures, it would in theory be possible to end wider lockdowns and still suppress the disease, so long as enough people take part.
Apple and Google’s method relies on using Bluetooth signals to detect matches.
But they have deliberately designed it so neither they nor the apps’ creators can see who has been given a warning.
The companies have said this is to guarantee “strong protections around user privacy”, which in turn should encourage adoption.
By contrast, Inria – the French institute developing its StopCovid app – has developed a system of its own, called Robert (robust and privacy-preserving proximity tracing protocol).
It published details about it on Sunday on the code-sharing site Github.
And although the French government has promised adoption of the app will be voluntary and involve anonymised data, the document reveals there would be ways to “re-identify users or to infer their contact graphs” if desired.
“It’s a misnomer to call it a privacy-preserving protocol,” said University of Oxford computer scientist Prof Max van Kleek, who prefers the Apple-Google design.
“It does preserve privacy between users but not between the user and the government.
“And that leads to the risk that the government later repurposes the system to make sure that people obey a quarantine or other kinds of things the state might want to know.”
The problem for Inria – and other countries developing their own contact-tracing apps – is Apple currently will not allow Bluetooth-based track-and-tracing to be carried out in the background.
So to work, the apps would have to remain active and on screen, limiting what else owners could do with their handsets and taking an extra toll on battery life.
The developers of Singapore’s TraceTogether app attempted to get round this problem by offering a Power Save mode, which dims the display.
But users have still complained of being unable to make calls or use other apps at the same time and having accidentally bumped the app into the background when their handset was in their pocket.
And this has discouraged people from using it.
“We’re asking Apple to lift the technical hurdle to allow us to develop a sovereign European health solution that will be tied to our health system,” France’s Digital Minister, Cedric O, told Bloomberg.
A spokesman for Apple referred BBC News to its earlier comments about privacy.
NHSX – which is testing an app of its own for the UK – faces a similar quandary and remains in discussions with Apple and Google about the matter.
“Apple and Google have a vested interest in protecting the privacy of their end-users,” Prof Van Kleek said.
“That’s not just from governments but also from potentially malicious adversaries.
“If you collect sensitive data, then it becomes more likely that that data will be leaked at some point, so from a cyber-security perspective there’s lots of good reasons not to do so.”
French lawmakers will vote on whether to proceed with the app, after the country’s government backed down from an original plan to let MPs only debate but not decide the measure.
Assuming they support the initiative, Mr O has said he hopes to launch the tool on 11 May.
Some Google Pixels received an Android 12 update instead of Android 13 – MobileSyrup
It wouldn’t be a major Google software release if there wasn’t something that went wrong.
Google started pushing the stable Android 13 update to Pixel devices on August 15th, and already some users have encountered an issue. For some Pixel devices, the latest update is actually to Android 12, not version 13. Several reports have emerged on Twitter and the r/GooglePixel subreddit about users receiving a 2GB Android 12 update on their Pixel phone.
Per Android Police, some brave users took a risk and installed the mystery Android 12 update and claimed it simply re-installed the Android 12 update and seemingly didn’t bump the OS build number.
Refreshed the ‘System Update’ dialog on my Pixel 6 sporadically for an hour… only to get an available update for Android 12 which the device is already on🤔
— Ed Holloway-George 🍝 (@Sp4ghettiCode) August 16, 2022
Other users noted they initially received the Android 13 upgrade but weren’t able to update right away. When they went back to download the new software a few hours later, the Android 12 update had replaced it. Moreover, some users who installed the Android 12 update were able to download the Android 13 update after.
Android Police notes the issues seems to primarily impact the Pixel 6, Pixel 4a and Pixel 5a (which isn’t available in Canada). Overall, the problem doesn’t seem that widespread, but it still impacted a bunch of Pixel users.
If you’re in the same boat with an Android 12 update on your Pixel, you might be able to trigger the Android 13 update by rebooting the device. If that doesn’t work, you’ll just need to wait for Google to fix the problem on its end unless you’re brave enough to redownload Android 12.
Why is ArriveCan still mandatory, and what is Ottawa’s plan for the contentious app?
OTTAWA — The glitch-prone app touted as an efficient border tool early in the pandemic has become a punching bag for critics who question its utility — but ArriveCan may be here to stay.
The government insists it’s a useful tool. Critics say it has outlived its use, if it ever had one.
Here’s a quick lowdown on what we currently know about it.
What is ArriveCan?
The app was introduced early in the pandemic and its use has been mandatory at air and land borders since February 2021 with exceptions in cases of accessibility issues or outages.
ArriveCan ostensibly screens incoming travellers for COVID-19 and for the last year tracked their vaccination status. Refusing to use the app to provide required information can result in a fine of up to $5,000 under the Quarantine Act.
Has the app done what it was supposed to do?
A December 2021 report from the federal auditor general said the ArriveCan app improved the quality of information the government collected on travellers. But poor data quality still meant that almost 138,000 COVID-19 test results couldn’t be matched to incoming travellers, and only 25 per cent of travellers told to quarantine in government-authorized hotels were verified to have stayed in them.
Last month, due to a glitch, ArriveCan instructed about 10,200 travellers to quarantine for 14 days when they didn’t have to. Bianca Wylie, a partner at Digital Public, questioned why the app would be automating those decisions in the first place, rather than sticking to the information-collection mandate it was launched with.
Is the app only about COVID-19?
Recent government updates to do with the app have focused on efficiencies rather than on public health measures. At air border crossings, it is now possible, though optional, to use the app to fill out a customs declaration form before arrival at Toronto’s Pearson airport, Vancouver or Montreal.
Last week the government said it planned to expand that optional feature to air arrivals in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Quebec City, Halifax and the Billy Bishop Toronto City airport.
In a statement earlier this month that focused on Canada’s broader air travel fiasco, Transport Canada said those who use the forms cut their time at kiosks down by a third. That’s 40 seconds off the average two-minute visit, which the government estimates could “save hours in wait time” if everyone used it.
Are apps the way of the future for air travel?
Electronic data collection related to COVID-19 has been mandatory at many international borders, and online forms are increasingly being used for non-pandemic reasons. Australia handles its electronic travel authorizations exclusively via app, while an online authorization form will be required to visit the European Union starting next year.
Canadian officials haven’t gone so far as to say that they’re planning something similar. But Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters in June that while ArriveCan was created for COVID-19, “it has technological capacity beyond that to really shrink the amount of time that is required when you’re getting screened at the border.”
Before the pandemic, Canada had already started digitizing its border services with other initiatives, including installing customs kiosks at major airports starting in 2017 and introducing an eDeclaration app in 2018, which still exists, to cut down processing times.
Wylie said people were not using that app at a high volume before the pandemic, because it was voluntary and there were easy alternatives. But she said Ottawa has been using COVID-19 as an opportunity to speed up the transition.
“The federal government has been using a public health crisis to basically train people in a border modernization exercise that they have wanted to do,” Wylie said, adding that modernization initiatives are fine as long as they are voluntary and alternatives are available.
How has the app affected travel across the land border?
About a quarter of people who cross into Canada from the U.S. by car don’t use ArriveCan in advance, according to Pierre St-Jacques, a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Union.
At the Canada-U. S. land border, a one-time exemption is in place for travellers who “may have been unaware” of the rules, the Canadian Border Services Agency confirmed. Out of five million crossings between May 24 and Aug. 4, the exemption was used 308,800 times, CBSA said in a statement.
But that’s just a temporary fix, St-Jacques said, as officers who already feel spread thin because of staffing shortages find themselves acting as “IT consultants” and troubleshooting travellers’ technical issues rather than doing what they’re trained to do. “If the goal of the app is to make cross-border travel more efficient or more secure, well, it doesn’t work in its current iteration,” he said.
Border town mayors, border-city chambers of commerce and even duty-free stores have complained publicly that they think ArriveCan, along with other pandemic border restrictions, have been a deterrent to American tourists.
Why has ArriveCan become such a hot political topic?
Whether because Canadians are annoyed about the extra hassle, concerned about their privacy, sympathetic to border towns or simply fed up with the federal Liberals, Conservatives have an audience for their calls to eliminate ArriveCan.
Canadian acting darling Simu Liu joined the “scrap the app” bandwagon, challenging his followers to say a single nice thing about it in a tweet Tuesday, then saying immediately: “I failed the challenge.”
Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said in a tweet Tuesday that ArriveCan created “unnecessary hurdles” and “only serves to hurt Canada’s economy and tourism industry.”
Some voices have gone a step further in claiming that the app is part of a broader effort to collect personal information and control the public. Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis called the whole thing a “surveillance experiment.”
The privacy commissioner is also investigating a complaint about the app’s collection and use of personal data.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.
— With files from Sarah Ritchie
Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press
Asmongold calls out Blizzard after brief WoW ban: “You obviously f**ked up” – Dexerto
Asmongold was recently banned from World of Warcraft for a brief period but was quickly allowed back in the game after Blizzard overturned the initial suspension.
In a recent YouTube video, Asmongold described his banning from World of Warcraft as a “glorious day.” During this video, the popular content creator began by recounting the events leading up to the moment he found out he had been banned from playing Blizzard’s hit MMO.
“I go to log on to World of Warcraft and it tells me this: Blizzard account has been suspended.” Jokingly, Asmon then added, “they shut me down, rightfully so.” He then went on to address Blizzard directly and offer up his thanks for what he clearly believed was an error on their behalf.
“I wanna say thank you, Blizzard, this is gonna be great clickbait on YouTube. You obviously f***ed up and didn’t mean to suspend me but that doesn’t mean my editors aren’t gonna farm this out for viewers on YouTube. Thank you, Blizzard.”
He then went on to read out an email from the devs, explaining why he was banned from World of Warcraft for allegedly engaging with real money transactions (RMT). However, Asmon was quick to shut down the idea that he had done any RMT trading in the video, which appeared to be the reasoning for his banning.
Asmon then called out Blizzard for their recent string of banning players for supposedly unsubstantiated reasons or banning players and then quickly overturning the decision. He did this by reading out tweets from other content creators as well as community members who have found themselves in similar situations when playing World of Warcraft.
Following his video, the World of Warcraft community on Reddit have shown their support for the content creator as well as also voicing their disappointment at Blizzard for banning Asmongold and others and then quickly backflipping after realising it was a mistake.
For all the latest on Asmongold, check out Dexerto’s full coverage here.
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