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Contact tracing in modern times

Posted by James Donaldson on April 20, 2020

Contact tracing and it's privacy implications

In these unprecedented times, we are often subject to necessary measures which are equally unprecedented. The upcoming Contact Tracing program which Google and Apple have partnered to create fits this criterion. As details emerge about how this Contact Tracing program works, we at Copperhead are paying close attention. Our users rightly expect choice about the information they disclose to the public, and we intend to continue to empower people to make informed decisions with their technology. Ultimately, CopperheadOS users will be empowered to make the choice to turn on Bluetooth scanning and be visible to mobile devices running the Contact Tracing app.

CopperheadOS and contact tracing

CopperheadOS users will not be subject to any update which installs the Contact Tracing client application.

CopperheadOS devices are completely “de-Googled”. Google Play Store and Services are not present in CopperheadOS. This means that Google cannot push the update which would install the Contact Tracing client application to stock Android devices. However, this fact alone does not mean that CopperheadOS users cannot be traced to contacts with stock Android or iOS devices. The device you're using may be privacy enabled and security protected but that does not guarantee the people around you share the same values as you do.

In our latest release we have done a complete review and revamp of CopperheadOS's privacy by default settings. Specifically regarding contact tracing, we have accounted for the ability to passively trace Bluetooth scanning devices not running the Contact Tracing client application. By setting the default for Bluetooth scanning to off, we hope to empower our users to make an informed decision to participate in the COVID-19 Contact Tracing program.

We urge our users to participate in the Contact Tracing program so long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, as the data collected could prove invaluable in helping to curtail the spread of this horrific disease. Industry experts have both praised and criticized Google for their transparency and efforts to protect the privacy of their users in the Contact Tracing program. Even still, we at Copperhead believe that informed consent is a critical component of this system which is being built. If the system is built for medical purposes or not, the system should always be subject to data collection by consent and privacy by default.

To all our users and communities at large, we hope you all Stay Home, and Stay Safe.