Second episode of my privacy podcast this week! I take a look at the code of the open source COVID-19 app for Germany.

The Private Citizen 23: The German Contact Tracing App Examined

There’s one thing I really don’t get about the very idea of bluetooth-powered contact tracing. Let’s say we did develop a really decent app. Let’s say the protocol is secure, and the app works really well, and privacy is respected, and everything is perfect on that side of things. It’s hardly possible, but just for the sake of argument let’s say it’s all good.

So, I have the app, you have the app. Let’s say you’re COVID-19 positive, and our apps have correctly identified that our phones have been in close proximity to each other for an hour. Like, a meter apart. So, supposedly me and you, our physical bodies, were close in space for that period of time. And in fact we were.

Because I was sitting on my couch listening to a podcast while you were banging your lover on her couch, and your lover’s couch happens to be positioned close to the wall that separates my apartment from your lover’s apartment, and my couch happens to be positioned along the same wall on my side.

How do the apps know that there was a wall between us, and that the two apartments don’t even share the same stairwell, so we had no chance to bump into each other and transmit the virus at all? I believe I was saying pretty much that exact thing when I first talked about the idea. It's a shitty system. I guess in theory the apps could tell by the attenuation of the radio signals, but I doubt very much that this works well in reality. I think all of this is just a big exercise in doing something for the sake of doing something. So that we can all feel better about the situation.

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