By Larry Danberger December 10, 2020
We struggle daily, trying to protect our privacy and our right to privacy, and for those of us in the tech industry we are also committed and trusted to protect the privacy of others.
We have witnessed the consequences of those that chose to exploit opportunities of access to information. The quick rise of free social web sites and device tools, where we are the product, have given us great cause to be wary and weary of sharing any personal information.
One such piece of private information is our location and movements, where we have been and where we are. For good reason we choose not to share this information, we simply don’t trust what others would do with this data.
The cost of this privacy, sadly, is DEATH.
The pandemic could have been stopped, had we ethically collected and analyzed the tracking information of travelers.
The tools and infrastructure already exist, in offerings such as google maps with location data and history. Any tweaking to software could easily have been pushed out to cell phone users, who represent a large portion of travelers. Integrated with travel ticket information, a significant portion of movements could have been identified. This data could then easily be analyzed to identify where paths crossed, who was likely infected, what areas need to be cleansed.
But we’ve insisted on limiting or eliminating the very data that would have helped stop the spread of the virus which has resulted in thousands sick or dead.
Instead, we attempt clumsy semi-anonymous work-arounds, contact trackers that have proven to be largely ineffective as they rely on human actions and only cover partial data. While better then nothing, we could have done a lot better. Lost is the shared history of movement, where for example an infected person visits a location moments prior to a previously non-infected person. The air we breath, the surfaces we touch, all may have an impact, yet that data has been lost. Lost too is the ability to automate the analysis of this contact tracking, which would have accomplished in seconds what we now require weeks and months for, if it can be done at all.
Those of us left living and healthy can pat ourselves on our backs knowing that we kept our privacy intact. We can join the ranks of those who insisted that science is stupid and that they can do whatever they want, unless they don’t feel well at which point they shove themselves to the head of the line to have others take care of them. As any would tell you, it is, after all, their right. And it is our right to keep our movements private.
The rest, well they paid the price of that privacy. RIP. (rest in privacy)
A special nod of appreciation goes to those front line workers that have been working hard to keep us all healthy and safe: the hospital workers, police, emergency responders, grocery store workers, real critical service workers, and more. Thank you.
A single finger salute to those that have further taxed our systems and patience as they demand their right to protest, to not wear masks in public or follow guidelines from actual medically educated people, and to think of only themselves.