Location, Location, Location

If you grew up or have lived in a hamlet, you will know that privilege of privacy is sketchy at best. Most occupants share a mutual understanding that this lifestyle means forfeiting a little privacy. The odds are that at any given time someone in your community knows your whereabouts: the second trip to the liquor store last Saturday; the cigarette you didn’t smoke behind the barn; the chance encounter with an old girlfriend. Call it if you will, “hamlet location tracking”. This invasion of privacy for the most part is innocent, maybe even helpful and certainly no more than a harmless nuisance.

However, if you are troubled by this type of location tracking then it is time to think about who else is keeping an eye on you. A more sinister privacy thief may have moved into your “community”.

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Your cell phone’s GPS is working overtime to determine your location. Many applications and app users are reaping the benefits of location tracking.  The newest, the National Health Service App (NHS). The objective of the NHS app is to track COVID-19 by tracking you.

The system uses your phone’s short-range Bluetooth Low Energy transmissions, coupled with randomised tokens, to look for individuals who are within a few feet of you every five minutes. Your phone logs those tokens, and if someone who is COVID-19 positive has crossed your path, an alert will be sent to your phone about the potential exposure.” (Tillman, 2020).

Simply put, once the app is downloaded, the user can secretly share if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and/or have tested positive. The app then anonymously notifies your contacts and other app users; informs the user they may have been in contact with COVID- 19 and suggests a manner in which to proceed. 

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This app is also helpful in determining COVID-19 hotspots. If several users in one location share symptoms, this location would then be considered a hotspot. The root of the hotspot’s existence could potentially be defined and eliminated.

Sounds good right? Anything to rid the world of this ugly calamity.

Hold on…”location”, “secret”, “anonymous”: These words haunt the persuasive arguments of Apple and Google as they try to convenience society that this app is safe and private.

There are two things that must exist for this app to be fundamental: Location tracking and anonymous identity.

Hypothetically speaking: 

I am a sports parent. The parents of my children’s teammates are listed in my contacts. What if the day after attending a game, I receive a positive COVID test; my contacts are anonymously informed; for the next 14 or more days I am not in attendance at any game. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to put two and two together! This transparency is far too obvious.

“The use of anonymised IDs and the way the service works, will mean that an individual cannot identify another individual, unless they have very few contacts”. (Tillman, 2020).

There are both negative and positive qualities of this app. Argumentatively, this app could be the most important means of prevention. If opting in means flattening the curve, then maybe we all have a moral responsibility to one another to do so.

However, there is controversy which is contingent upon the answers to the following questions: Eventually when a vaccine is found, what will happen to this mass collection of data? Will the government uphold its moral responsibility? Will this information remain private or will it be sold for economic benefit? Will Apple and Google uphold their promise to “delete”? 

So far the app is voluntary, but what if the power in having this global database tugs at the temptation to make participation mandatory. Will this be the real life rendition of Geroge Orwell’s “Big Brother”?

Before you embrace the notion that this app will save the plane, be aware that your trip to the “weed” store, the rendezvous with you “friend” etc. are  tracked.  Are you ready to air out your innocent secrets? It is one thing when your hamlet knows your location but the state…

Is it possible, in the near future, leaving your cell at home, will be the only way to secure privacy? This action could render the new COVID-19 app illusive.


Tillman, M., 2020. Apple And Google’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing System Explained. [online] Pocket-lint. Available at: <https://www.pocket-lint.com/phones/news/151795-how-apple-and-google-plan-to-use-your-phone-to-track-covid-19&gt; [Accessed 9 June 2020].

Tillman, M., 2020. How NHS COVID-19 Coronavirus Contact Tracing App Will Work. [online] Pocket-lint. Available at: <https://www.pocket-lint.com/apps/news/151807-how-the-nhs-coronavirus-contact-tracing-app-will-work&gt; [Accessed 9 June 2020].

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/National Health App. Is tracking you. Pros. and Cons. https://bit.ly/2UH6QO7

Twitter: National Health App. Is tracking you. Pros. and Cons.#NHS #NHStracking#locationtracking https://bit.ly/2UH6QO7

5 thoughts on “Location, Location, Location

  1. OOOOO! I heard about this app from a friend in the UK and thought *bleep* that! Who in their right mind is going to download it! The data collected from apps like this and all our other social media platforms is 100% at risk of being exploited, most of our data already is being exploited.
    I’d never in a million years download this app. I think you might like this book: “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – The Fight For A Human Future At The Frontier Of Power” by Shoshana Zuboff.
    Great post!

  2. Interesting topic! This may be something that we will all be forced to encounter in the near future. Definitely a scary thought and very 1984! Although it may be a good way to track community spread of Covid-19 and thus help out our fellow humans, it very possibly the beginning of permanent tracking by large corporations and the government. I’m sure companies like Google and Apple are very excited about an app like this. Even if you leave your phone at home there are Fitbits, Apple Watches and newer cars usually have a GPS system. They all interact with one another. Yikes! There goes our privacy once and for all! Great read!

  3. My aunt lives in the UK and told me about this app. It is a interesting topic for sure, and I think something that we will likely continue to discuss even post pandemic.

  4. WOHOOO!!! I do know from my friends that there exist applications that can track one’s location. People often do it for the safety of their loved ones, but the other side of the coin makes us a fool. We have become vulnerable to risks of life. Robbers, hackers, and others like these now have an easy access to their targets which may even be fatal. Authorities should definitely take some measures to make such applications encrypted with passwords so that every tom, dick, and harry does not have access to others’ locations.

  5. I briefly heard about this app last week. Very interesting post! I will definitely go read more on this subject. I personally think that privacy is something that we don’t really have anymore just because of everything that is in our cellphones. We often download apps without really reading about conditions and sometimes when you start reading them it’s quite scary.

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