Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has announced today that the country will use Apple/Google’s API for its national contact tracing app. It will first launch as part of a test in Ontario on July 2 before becoming available more widely.
The news about Canada moving forward with Apple/Google’s API comes after the UK shared that it has reversed its previous plans and decided to do the same.
In the announcement today, Trudeau shared that Canada’s national contact tracing app built on Apple/Google’s API was created in partnership with Shopify, Blackberry, the Ontario government, and the Canadian Digital Service Initiative (via iPhone in Canada).
Canada’s decision to go with a national approach comes after Alberta launched a Bluetooth-based contact tracing app back at the beginning of May. However, that app required users to keep their phones unlocked with the app in the foreground for it to work, a major barrier to adoption.
Apps built on Apple/Google’s API don’t need to be running in the foreground making for a much more convenient experience including less battery drain. They work anonymously and are opt-in.
As for the US, there is hardly any participation where individual states are making the call whether to use the secure and private Apple/Google API. As of now, there are no US states offering a supported app with just four planning to do so.
Here’s a look at the app and the setup process:
NEW: Here’s your first look at Ontario’s new COVID-19 contact tracing app.
— Colin D’Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) June 18, 2020
#BREAKING: The province of Ontario is testing a contact tracing app that will notify people if they’ve been exposed to someone with #COVID19. It will be voluntary and anonymous. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/fBBMhSnVFO
— NEWSTALK1010 (@NEWSTALK1010) June 18, 2020
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Alberta privacy commissioner calls province's contact tracing app a 'security risk' – MobileSyrup
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta (OIPC) reviewed Alberta’s smartphone app for tracking COVID-19 and found it could be a security risk if used on an Apple device.
The app, called ‘ABTraceTogether,’ launched in early May and allowed Albertans to track contact with others over Bluetooth. ABTraceTogether uses a similar system to the system created by Apple and Google. It uses Bluetooth to trade codes between nearby phones. When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can upload the codes through the app, which alerts other users who were in close contact with the infected person.
Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton told Global News that although Alberta Health was mindful of privacy and security when developing the app, she had “ongoing concerns” about how ABTraceTogether worked on Apple devices.
The main issue brought up by Clayton is that Apple users need to keep their devices unlocked to use ABTraceTogether. Doing so “significantly increases the risk in case of theft or loss,” Clayton told Global News.
It’s important to note that the security problem here isn’t caused by ABTraceTogether directly. Instead, the problem is a fault of Apple’s restrictive settings on iOS. That said, issues like this are among the central reasons Apple and Google partnered to create a cross-platform contact tracing API that could work in the background as part of each company’s respective mobile operating system.
Global News reports that Alberta Health confirmed it began working with Apple and Google to improve the app about three weeks after ABTraceTogether launched. However, over a month and a half later, Alberta Health says it’s still working with Apple to create a fix to allow ABTraceTogether to work in the background.
The province told Global News that the app plays a vital role in fighting COVID-19 and helps save lives. Further, Alberta Health said it would review the commissioner’s report and make changes where it can.
Google targets stalkerware in updated ad policy – CNET
Google will name stalkerware apps on its list of services banned from advertising on its platform, starting in August, the company said in an update this month. The move is designed to make it even harder to reach potential customers for the apps, which are also banned from Google’s and Apple’s stores.
Stalkerware or spyware apps are disturbingly common. Tens of thousands of the services are available by some estimates, and they let someone who has access to your phone or cloud passwords intercept your texts, call logs and location while having access to your microphone and camera., and often are used for illegal activity.
Google’s ad policies are one of many ways the tech sector and advocates have tried to limit the app-makers’ reach. Google and Apple have also removed many of the apps from their platforms. Additionally, a group of advocates, antivirus companies and legal experts, have formed the Coalition Against Stalkerware. Antivirus firms have researched the best ways to identify the apps and warn users when stalkerware might be on their phones. (CNET wrote a series of stories on these apps and their dangers earlier this year. They’re listed in the curated links box below.)
The apps have. The law lets app makers advertise the products as family safety apps, meant to keep track of kids’ phone use and locations. But because they often run completely in the background, with no icon or notifications to let the user know they’re there, the apps are useful for people who want to spy on partners or exes without their consent.
In a Harris poll conducted with NortonLifeLock, 1 in 10 people in the US saidto track an ex or partner.
Google’s new policy does allow app makers to advertise services “designed for parents to track or monitor their underage children.” This could prompt apps with secret spy abilities to use deceptive, family-friendly messaging when they try to advertise with Google. Under the hood, they may still act like stalkerware apps, as security writer Graham Cluley pointed out in a blog post Friday.
According to Google, the company takes enforcement action against companies that hide the true purpose of their apps with deceptive practices. The update will add spyware to the list of specific examples of services that can’t advertise with Google because they “enable a user to gain unauthorized access (or make unauthorized changes) to systems, devices, or property.” Other services currently listed by Google include “hacking services, stealing cable, radar jammers, changing traffic signals, phone or wire-tapping.”
In a statement, a Google spokesperson said the company makes frequent updates to its ad policies to make sure users are protected.
“We routinely updated our language with examples to help clarify what we consider policy violating,” the spokesperson said. “Spyware technology for partner surveillance was always in scope of our policies against dishonest behavior.”
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