BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany changed course on Sunday over which type of smartphone technology it wanted to use to trace coronavirus infections, backing an approach supported by Apple and Google along with a growing number of other European countries.
FILE PHOTO: A sign with distancing rules and the notice that masks must be worn, is seen at the entrance of a shop, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Erfurt, Germany, April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Karina Hessland
Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Berlin would adopt a ‘decentralized’ approach to digital contact tracing, in so doing abandoning a home-grown alternative.
Nations are rushing to develop apps to assess at scale the risk of catching COVID-19, where the chain of infection is proving hard to break because the flu-like disease can be spread by those showing no symptoms.
In Europe, most countries have chosen short-range Bluetooth ‘handshakes’ between devices as the best approach, but have differed over whether to log such contacts on a central server or on individual devices.
Germany as recently as Friday backed an initiative called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), whose centralized approach was criticized by hundreds of scientists in an open letter last Monday as opening the way to state surveillance.
“We will back a decentralized architecture that will only store contacts on devices. That is good for trust,” Braun told ARD public television in an interview.
Although Bluetooth-based smartphone contact tracing is an untested technology and early results in countries like Singapore are modest, its development is already redefining the relationship between the state and individual.
It would work by assessing the closeness and length of contact between people and, should a person test positive for COVID-19, tell recent contacts to call a doctor, get tested or self-isolate.
OFF THE CASE
One of the members of PEPP-PT, Germany’s Fraunhofer HHI research institute, was told on Saturday that it was being taken off the project, correspondence seen by Reuters showed.
“The project will be handed over and others will be able to make use of the results we have achieved so far to build a decentralized solution,” Fraunhofer HHI head Thomas Wiegand said in a message to colleagues.
Germany’s change of tack would bring its approach into line with that taken by Apple and Alphabet’s Google, which said this month they would develop new tools to support decentralized contact tracing.
Importantly, Apple’s iPhone would under the proposed setup only work properly with decentralized protocols such as DP-3T, which has been developed by a Swiss-led team and has been backed by Switzerland, Austria and Estonia.
Health authorities are keen to get insights into the spread of infection and make use of digital contact tracing to support existing teams that work phones and knock on doors to warn those at risk.
Backers of DP-3T, short for Decentralised Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing, say it is still possible for users to opt in to sharing their phone number to aid contact tracing – but this would be part of an app, not of the system architecture.
And although using Bluetooth means the location of an infection event cannot be known to the authorities, it would still be possible for users, by opting in, to share epidemiologically useful data under a decentralized approach.
DP-3T said in a statement that it is was “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.”
PEPP-PT said it planned to issue a statement in due course.
The Fraunhofer HHI institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke; editing by Jason Neely
Montreal weather: A good day to stay inside with the windows open – Montreal Gazette
Isn’t that rain refreshing? Yeah, it’s putting a damper on the weekend, but it’s not like you can do much out there these days.
Today’s forecast calls for the rain to continue until the morning, then maybe come back in the mid-afternoon as we hit a reasonable high of 20 C. (Sunday will be better — sunny and 21.)
We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
Tonight: Chance of rain. Low 12.
Don’t forget to submit your photos of Montreal via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by tagging them with #ThisMtl. We’ll feature one per day right here in the morning file. Today’s photo was posted on Instagram by @tinmarieb.
Quote of the day
The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles. — Ayn Rand
Help support our local journalism by subscribing to the Montreal Gazette.
Apple iOS 13.5.5 Can’t Come Soon Enough: Here Are 3 Reasons Why – Forbes
The next updates for Apple’s iPhone and iPad will be iOS 13.5.5 and iPadOS 13.5.5 (unless a bug appears that needs squishing quickly before then). They can’t be far off, because the first developers’ betas and public betas have appeared, but along with bug fixes there are features which are going to be highly useful.
To get new features at this stage in an OS’s cycle is pretty rare, so here are the three standouts which it’s worth looking out for.
Sure, it’s only days since the latest iOS update dropped – iOS 13.5.1, which was also when iPadOS 13.5.1 arrived. But that update had one specific purpose: to patch a vulnerability which allowed anyone to jailbreak their iPhone – and risked bad actors exploiting the weakness, too.
So, the last new features came with iOS 13.5, back in May. Here are the three headline extras of iOS 13.5.5. that we know about – or think we do.
News+ to gain audio
How do you consume your news features?
For a lot of people it’s a combination of radio, TV, online newspapers, apps and podcasts. Ah, yes, podcasts. The Apple News+ subscription service could do with some of those. The subscription price of $9.99 a month is good value for so many magazines and newspapers, but even so, shouldn’t you expect audio as well?
The iOS 13.5.5 beta shows a new tab in the Apple News app that reads “Audio”. Because it’s only in beta, there’s no actual playable content just yet, even for those signed up for the public beta.
When it’s live, it will almost certainly mean there will be audio versions of curated articles from publications available in Apple News+.
It will have an interface similar to the Podcasts app, according to Jeff Benjamin from 9to5Mac.
It seems that non-subscribers will be able to access little bits of audio but you’ll need the full subscription to hear everything.
Apple is doubtless still sorting licensing issues for this right now. Choosing the articles, employing the actors to read them and recording the audio versions will take time, so don’t expect a full library of audible goodness on day one. But it will be a big step forward for the News+ platform. After all, it’s believed that Apple News+ hasn’t taken off quite the way the company would have liked. Which brings us to the second feature I’m looking forward to.
Apple News+ and other services bundles
Forensic examination of code in iOS 13.5.5. beta by Filipe Espósito at 9to5Mac suggests that we may soon be able to buy Apple services together for a lower price.
This is something that’s been rumored since 2019, but references to a “bundle offer” and to a “bundle subscription” appearing in the code are new, apparently.
It’s not clear when this might come – some sources say not until 2021 – or which services might be included. After all, although Apple launched TV+ alongside the Apple Arcade games subscription, that wouldn’t be the best fit, perhaps. Either Apple Music ($9.99 a month) or Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month) could make a tempting combo with Apple News+, especially if the price is right.
iPad Keyboard backlighting
The third feature is something I think about, well, every time I use my iPad Pro with its spectacular Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard, unlike Smart Keyboards from Apple that have preceded it, is backlit. So you can use it in a dark room without squinting crazily or tipping the iPad screen toward the keys to try and make out which key is which.
But adjusting the brightness of the keyboard isn’t quite as simple as it might be. I mean, it’s designed so it adjusts the brightness automatically based on the lighting conditions, but your idea of what’s right and the keyboard’s aren’t always the same thing.
There’s no row of function keys on the Magic Keyboard, you see, so that’s not where you go to adjust brightness as you might on a regular laptop. Instead, you need to stop what you’re doing, open the Settings app, go to General, then Keyboard and then Hardware Keyboard.
Only then do you reach a screen where you can adjust the brightness.
According to 9to5Mac, iPadOS 13.5.5 has references in the code which suggest that there will be keyboard shortcuts to offer the capabilities which would normally fall to the function keys.
It looks like the shortcuts will allow simple, quick adjustment of the Keyboard backlighting, iPad display brightness and more.
They’re not active in the software beta so it’s not clear if they will be customizable or exactly how they will work.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not clear whether, though the code is in place in iPadOS 13.5.5, if that’s when it will debut or whether we’ll have to wait for iPadOS 14. Let’s hope it’s coming soon.
The final release of the software is imminent. When it launches, I’ll report on exactly what is, and what isn’t, included.
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