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Germany ditches centralized approach to app for COVID-19 contacts tracing – TechCrunch



Germany has U-turned on building a centralized COVID-19 contacts tracing app — and will instead adopt a decentralized architecture, Reuters reported Sunday, citing a joint statement by chancellery minister Helge Braun and health minister Jens Spahn.

In Europe in recent weeks, a battle has raged between different groups backing centralized vs decentralized infrastructure for apps being fast-tracked by governments which will use Bluetooth-based smartphone proximity as a proxy for infection risk — in the hopes of supporting the public health response to the coronavirus by automating some contacts tracing.

Centralized approaches that have been proposed in the region would see pseudonymized proximity data stored and processed on a server controlled by a national authority, such as a healthcare service. However concerns have been raised about allowing authorities to scoop up citizens’ social graph, with privacy experts warning of the risk of function creep and even state surveillance.

Decentralized contacts tracing infrastructure, by contrast, means ephemeral IDs are stored locally on device — and only uploaded with a user’s permission after a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. A relay server is used to broadcast infected IDs — enabling devices to locally compute if there’s a risk that requires notification. So social graph data is not centralized.

The change of tack by the German government marks a major blow to a homegrown standardization effort, called PEPP-PT, that had been aggressively backing centralization — while claiming to ‘preserve privacy’ on account of not tracking location data. It quickly scrambled to propose a centralized architecture for tracking coronavirus contacts, led by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, and claiming the German government as a major early backer, despite PEPP-PT later saying it would support decentralized protocols too.

As we reported earlier, the effort faced strident criticism from European privacy experts — including a group of academics developing a decentralized protocol called DP-3T — who argue p2p architecture is truly privacy preserving. Concerns were also raised about a lack of transparency around who is behind PEPP-PT and the protocols they claimed to support, with no code published for review.

The European Commission, meanwhile, has also recommended the use of decentralization technologies to help boost trust in such apps in order to encourage wider adoption.

EU parliamentarians have also warned regional governments against trying to centralize proximity data during the coronavirus crisis.

But it was Apple and Google jumping into the fray earlier this month by announcing joint support for decentralized contacts tracing that was the bigger blow — with no prospect of platform-level technical restrictions being lifted. iOS limits background access to Bluetooth for privacy and security reasons, so national apps that do not meet this decentralized standard won’t benefit from API support — and will likely be far less usable, draining battery and functioning only if actively running.

Nonetheless PEPP-PT told journalists just over a week ago that it was engaged in fruitful discussions with Apple and Google about making changes to their approach to accommodate centralized protocols.

Notably, the tech giants never confirmed that claim. They have only since doubled down on the principle of decentralization for the cross-platform API for public health apps — and system-wide contacts tracing which is due to launch next month.

At the time of writing PEPP-PT’s spokesman, Hans-Christian Boos, had not responded to a request for comment on the German government withdrawing support.

Boos previously claimed PEPP-PT had around 40 governments lining up to join the standard. However in recent days the momentum in Europe has been going in the other direction. A number of academic institutions that had initially backed PEPP-PT have also withdrawn support.

In a statement emailed to TechCrunch, the DP-3T project welcomed Germany’s U-turn. “DP-3T is very happy to see that Germany is adopting a decentralized approach to contact tracing and we look forward to its next steps implementing such a technique in a privacy preserving manner,” the group told us.

Berlin’s withdrawal leaves France and the UK the two main regional backers of centralized apps for coronavirus contacts tracing. And while the German U-turn is certainly a hammer blow for the centralized camp in Europe the French government appears solid in its support — at least for now.

France has been developing a centralized coronavirus contacts tracing protocol, called ROBERT, working with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute and others.

In an opinion issued Sunday, France’s data protection watchdog, the CNIL, did not take active issue with centralizing pseudonymized proximity IDs — saying EU law does not in principle forbid such a system — although the watchdog emphasized the need to minimize the risk of individuals being re-identified.

It’s notable that France’s digital minister, Cédric O, has been applying high profile public pressure to Apple over Bluetooth restrictions — telling Bloomberg last week that Apple’s policy is a blocker to the virus tracker.

Yesterday O was also tweeting to defend the utility of the planned ‘Stop Covid’ app.

We reached out to France’s digital ministry for comment on Germany’s decision to switch to a decentralized approach but at the time of writing the department had not responded.

In a press release today the government highlights the CNIL view that its approach is compliant with data protection rules, and commits to publishing a data protection impact assessment ahead of launching the app.

If France presses ahead it’s not clear how the country will avoid its app being ignored or abandoned by smartphone users who find it irritating to use. (Although it’s worth noting that Google’s Android platform has a substantial marketshare in the market, with circa 80% vs 20% for iOS, per Kantar.)

A debate in the French parliament tomorrow is due to include discussion of contacts tracing apps.

We’ve also reached out to the UK’s NHSX — which has been developing a COVID-19 contacts tracing app for the UK market — and will update this report with any response.

In a blog post Friday the UK public healthcare unit’s digital transformation division said it’s “working with Apple and Google on their welcome support for tracing apps around the world”, a PR line that entirely sidesteps the controversy around centralized vs decentralized app infrastructures.

The UK has previously been reported to be planning to centralize proximity data — raising questions about the efficacy of its planned app too, given iOS restrictions on background access to Bluetooth.

“As part of our commitment to transparency, we will be publishing the key security and privacy designs alongside the source code so privacy experts can ‘look under the bonnet’ and help us ensure the security is absolutely world class,” the NHSX’s Matthew Gould and Dr Geraint Lewis added in the statement.

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This is the best video game bundle ever – Polygon



The Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality at is the best video game bundle we’ve ever seen. That isn’t hyperbole. For a minimum of $5 donation you get over “740 works,” including some of our favorite games. But what makes the bundle truly special is the purpose: proceeds will be split 50/50 between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund.

You can donate however much you’d like (naturally, we encourage more than $5 if you have the means) to get games like Oxenfree, Overland, Art Sqool, Wide Ocean Big Jacket, Quadrilateral Cowboy, Gunhouse, and Fortune-499.

These aren’t just good games; they’re exceptional.

The bundle also includes A Short Hike, one of our top 10 games of 2019, and A Mortician’s Tale, one of my favorite games of 2018, which taught me about eco-friendly mortuary services. That one game alone is worth the donation!

Seriously, do not miss this chance to play hundreds of games from some of the most talented independent creators while supporting a vital cause. And once you’ve grabbed the bundle, read our guide on how to support Black Lives Matter and the protests against police brutality.

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Destiny 2’s first Fortnite-style live event was slow and underwhelming, but it’s a solid start – The Verge



Destiny 2’s first ever Fortnite-style live event just wrapped earlier today, and it was unfortunately not quite what some players were expecting. Instead of something monumental and game-changing for a key part of the game world, it was more of a slow burn alternative to a standard video game cutscene. And instead of delivering a strong narrative pay off on a season’s worth of otherwise dull and repetitive activity, the Almighty event ended without any meaningful change in direction or surprising new development.

For the last there months, developer Bungie has been building up a clash between the Destiny world’s artificial intelligence supercomputer Rasputin and a large planet-destroying ship called the Almighty. All of this past season’s activities have revolved around communicating with the AI character, a largely mysterious fixture in Destiny lore before this season, and doing a series of rehashed game modes and resource collecting in service of an eventual showdown between Rasputin and the Almighty. Over the last month, players were asked to participate in a mind-numbing number of public event activities to unlock an old Destiny 1 weapon and a brief story mission, with the promise of more to come at season’s end.

Some players expected the Almighty to actually crash into the game’s Tower social hub. Others expected a cutscene or perhaps some form of real-time space battle that would destroy or in some change the Tower. What we actually got was a severely understated form of the latter in which the image of the Almighty changed in excruciatingly slow fashion with new animations and, eventually, its destruction. Yet the whole execution felt a bit slapdash and underwhelming.

The event got off to a bumpy start when, at the scheduled 1PM ET start time, nothing appeared to happen. The delay, whether intentional or not, lasted for more than 20 minutes, but it did give players ample time to load into the Tower and to join in with any other collaborative antics other players were engaging in.

In my instance, a row of well-decorated Guardians laid down holographic staffs as if to make a last line of defense by using the “None Shall Pass” emote, a reference to Gandalf’s legendary line when facing down the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings.

Eventually, players began noticing subtle changes in the sky in the form of large clusters of laser beams arcing toward the Almighty. The process appeared to be dynamic, so the lasers grew closer over time, but at a painfully so pace that made it hard to track minute-by-minute movement.

The lasers made contact at around 1:50PM ET, nearly a full hour after the event supposedly first launched. (It’s unclear if there actually was an initial real at first or if Bungie purposefully designed it to be as slow-moving as it actually was.)

As we closed in on close to 90 minutes after the event first started, the ship began to explode in apparent slow motion. But that’s when the one exciting portion of the event kicked in, as the Almighty began crashing toward the surface of the Earth and bits of debris began flying off. This was the only actual dynamic part of the experience, as everything else felt like a series of subtle screenshot changes to in-game sky.

It ultimately ended with an exciting crash landing and a shock wave, and now the Almighty’s landing site appears to be a permanent fixture of the background of the Tower. If players end up inspecting some of the crash debris (after re-zoning in), Bungie is awarding an emblem.

Still, that the conclusion, which lasted under 10 minutes, required 90 minutes of build up and resulted in just an emblem and not much more illustrates the mismatched expectations Bungie may have inadvertently cultivated.

We’ve never seen Bungie try something this ambitious with Destiny 2 before, and the end result was certainly exciting when you consider what could come next. The closest the studio has come is with 2018’s Forsaken expansion, in which the game’s new location, the Dreaming City, underwent a transformation after the very first raid team bested The Last Wish activity. But it was not at the scale of the Almighty event, and this is Bungie’s first real attempt at building a months-long narrative culminating in some form of shared experience for the player base.

Fortnite, although it’s best known for being a wildly popular battle royale game, has emerged over the last few years as an industry leader in what can only be described as live, simultaneous events. These are in-game events that happen in real time and are experienced only once by every single player who happens to log in and be present for the show. Fortnite isn’t the first of its kind to do this; massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and online sims like Second Life have been experimenting in this department for years. But Fortnite features undeniably the most impressive and technically challenging versions of these events in all of gaming.

Starting with an in-game rocket launch back in 2018 and growing steadily more ambitious every few months with more complex and ever-evolving events like last fall’s black hole stunt, developer Epic has proven it has the technical chops to do what video games even just five years ago considered almost impossible. More recently, Epic held a stunning Travis Scott show that projected the rapper as a superhuman skyscraper-sized hologram for more than 12 million players and, last summer, concluded a multi-month storyline with a mecha-monster showdown, Pacific Rim-style.

Part of what makes Fortnite’s events so fun and feel so unprecedented is that they are so intricately built over time. Epic, through whatever technical achievements it’s built under the hood of its battle royale game (the developer has never shared how it pulls these events off), is able to change its map in subtle ways almost every day, adding clues to find and expanding teasers of larger events all without having to take down its server for maintenance. Some of its most successful feats have included a live event that then kicks players right into an all-new, changed game map, no update required.

Bungie’s approach is nowhere near that sophisticated, at least not yet. But the developer is trying something new and it’s clear the studio has taken ample notes from watching Fortnite. The Almighty grew ever-closer in the sky over the past season, and players logging into the Tower on Saturday morning noticed all the non-playable characters having shifted their positions to get a clear look at the ship’s descent. These changes were minor and it will be interesting to see if Bungie can step up its game for future live events, if it does indeed try them again.

Regardless of the overall quality in this Almighty event, experiments like these represent, for the first time, Destiny 2 living up to the series’ original promise of a shared, living, and ever-changing world. They help the game better straddle the line between shooter and MMO, even if it’s taken quite a few years and nearly two full games to get there.

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[Indie Live Expo] That Tiny Spaceship Trailer + Xbox One News + Demo News & More – Gamasutra



[This unedited press release is made available courtesy of Gamasutra and its partnership with notable game PR-related resource GamesPress.]

Game Name: That Tiny Spaceship

Developer: We Make Small Games

Release Date: 2020 (PC) / TBA Console

Platforms: Windows PC & Xbox One

Players: 1

Press Contact: [email protected] | 403 – 970 -5653

Calgary Alberta, Canada – June 5th 2020 – We Make Small Games is proud to be included in the Indie Live Expo being held by Playism and Ryu’s Office that takes place beginning tomorrow (June 6th) at 5 A.M MST. Because most of you will probably be asleep at that time, please find enclosed all of our announcements and media ahead of time.

EMBARGO: June 6th 7 AM MST / 9 AM EST

In our press kit you will find: Copies of our game’s key, several screenshots, full press release in two languages, an HD version of our most recent trailer.

Trailer YouTube Mirror

Press Kit Download

Press Kit Download (Mirrior)

Genre’s Collide

  • Single player space shooter inspired by the coin-op games and early home console games of the 1980s.
  • 4 missions – Beware obstacles and hazards lurk off screen!
  • Synth-wave inspired soundtrack
  • Colourful cast of characters who have enrolled in the D.R.O.O.L institute’s program to become licensed single-occupancy drone pilots.
  • Visual Novel sections in-between playable missions that explore our pilot’s academic struggles, interpersonal relationships and personalities.

Things Are Really Starting To Heat Up

With today’s trailer release we’ve revealed footage from our game’s second module – which is set above a blazing hot sun. D.R.O.O.L candidates will find that their craft can only take so much heat from the sun before the ship’s integrity starts to fail. Candidates will have to keep their ship from falling apart while dodging oncoming meteors, solar flares and at the end of a stage a large boss ship that can warp around!

Meet Our First Pilot

Players will be able to chose between 4 different playable pilots who will appear during “modules” (missions) while piloting the titular Tiny Spaceship as well as during Visual Novel sections that take place between modules.

We’d like to introduce you to our first revealed pilot, Urani!

Name: Urani

Age: 18 (Earth Years) 

Urani comes from a small, flooded planet on the outer edges of the galaxy. As such, they are an exceptionally strong swimmer. Ever curious, they joined D.R.O.O.L in order to have an excuse to explore the universe with impunity.

Setting Course For Xbox One

A version of That Tiny Spaceship will be released for the Xbox One home console after the Windows PC version has launched on Steam. That Tiny Spaceship on Xbox One will be published via the Xbox Creators Program and will be accessible in that section of the Store once published. More details surrounding the console version of That Tiny Spaceship will be revealed at a later date.

Regarding Release Platforms

When we originally announced That Tiny Spaceship back in May 2018 we specifically announced two platforms in addition to Windows based PC – Apple’s Mac OS and Open Source Linux as target platforms for the game.

Many things have changed in the previous two years – within the game’s scope and in the realm of desktop gaming as a whole. In regard to MacOS, the latest release has introduced changes to application development and troubleshooting any potential issues would require development resources that we do not have at this time. In regards to Linux support, the sheer number of distributions available could make official support very difficult.

Several third party options exist for players on MacOS and Linux to attempt to play our game. Abstraction layers and recent changes to some digital distribution system could potentially make That Tiny Spaceship playable on platforms that will not be officially supported.

Demo To Be Released In Summer 2020

A free playable demo containing the first Visual Novel section and the first introductory module will be made available on Steam later this summer. This will give players an introduction to That Tiny Spaceship and the game-play that we have to offer.

Minimum System Requirements (Revision)

Our Minimum System requirements have been slightly adjusted from the original specs announced when our Steam page went live. With the addition of the Visual Novel sections we’ll be putting quite a bit more HD art into the TTS than originally planned. To accommodate this the space requirements have been increased by 1GB.

OS: Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10

Processor: Dual Core 2.0 GHZ

Memory: 2 GB RAM

Graphics: Intel HD 620 or Nvidia 950M / AMD HD 7970

DirectX: Version 11.0

Storage: 1.5GB

Sound Card: On-board sound or stand-alone equivalent


“We Make Small Games” Logo, Branding and Zee Character © 2018 We Make Small Games “That Tiny Spaceship” Logo, Branding, Original Graphics and “That Tiny Spaceship” vector design © 2018 We Make Small Games.

©2018  Valve  Corporation.  Steam  and  the  Steam  logo  are  trademarks and/or  registered   trademarks  of  Valve  Corporation  in  the  U.S.  and/or  other  countries.  All  rights  reserved.

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