Help – A Covid-19 Tracker app has been secretly installed on my Phone!

On LinkedIn the other day I noticed a post claiming that Covid-19 tracker apps had been installed on everybody’s smart phone and that we were all being tracked.

Ok, so lets ignore the fact that we can be tracked via our phones anyway and look at what the fuss is about.

If I open up the settings on my OnePlus 6T Android phone I see a new item – ‘COVID-19 exposure notifications’. This is what some people are losing their minds about right now.

I on the other hand am not. Why not?

Well, as a developer (web and mobile) I listen to numerous podcasts with presenters and guests who know what they are talking about and one such episode focused on the collaboration between Google and Apple to create the foundations for Covid-19 tracking app and roll it out to their phones during a standard update cycle.

In this episode, which non-techies will find boring as hell, security expert Steve Gibson analyses the technology and gives it the thumbs up from a security and privacy point of view. This is a man I trust when it comes to these things.

But here’s the thing that you may have missed – this is the foundation for app development, it is NOT a tracking app itself.

If people bothered to tap on the above settings option to open and read the details, instead of taking screenshots, posting them on LinkedIn (and probably Facebook and Twitter) claiming that something underhanded is going on, then they would have seen that this functionality is only activated when a compatible application is installed.

There’s other information there too which may have reassured them (or not) and a link for them to find out even more about this functionality.

In case you are concerned that someone could create an app and secretly access this functionality for nefarious reasons, not just any Tom, Dick or Harry can knock up Covid-19 Tracking App using this API.

Only third party companies affiliated with a public health authority or government can use it and that will be tightly controlled by Apple and Google.

So what do I do now?

Frankly, nothing. There is nothing you can do to remove this nor is there any need for you to do so. If you don’t install a tracking app, this functionality won’t be activated on your phone. Simple as that.

If you don’t trust Google or Apple (or your Government) then you probably want to think about changing your phone to something a bit less “smart”.

As an aside….

Above I linked out to the Security Now podcast with Steve Gibson where he gave the thumbs up to the technology.

A later podcast is entitled “Contact Tracing Apps RIP” where he explains that while the technology is sound, the system will probably not work in the real world.

Why is this?

Well, research suggests that for the system to work effectively it would need at least 80% of the population to install it on their devices – and if the above hysteria is anything to go by, that’s just not going to happen.

I’ll leave it there….

That’s All Folks – I’m Out!

TLDR; I’m another statistic – IR35 and the Covid-19 outbreak have forced me into a position where I have to close down my contracting company and seek alternative employment.

Image Copyright of Warner Brothers

Well, that’s that! Today I instructed my accountant to ‘Pull the Pin’ on my company and start the process of winding it up. A sad but somehow inevitable day for me – I’ve seen it coming for a month or so but it’s not easy being here now.

I’ve been contracting through my limited company for the last 9 years and in the time I have worked on numerous projects across numerous sectors – an experience that has, I believe, left me a better developer that I would otherwise had been. I have no regrets – none!

But a combination of unfair an tax legislation and a worldwide pandemic have left me in an untenable situation – while the company might (just might) survive the Covid-19 Lockdown the specter of IR35 looms large on the horizon and I’d rather take a different fork in the road instead of heading into more uncertainty.

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Getting stuff done under Lockdown

As we enter week six of the Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK I am still ‘between contracts’. I’ve had a handful of video interviews but these haven’t led anywhere yet – but I’m not sitting around idle.

Notwithstanding the decorating, gardening and spring-cleaning (of office and summerhouse – I’m not trusted to attack the house itself) I have been hitting Pluralsight online tech training hard for the past few weeks.

Taking the time to get up to speed with the most recent changes in .NET Core, Blazor and Xamarin were an initial target for my attention but I’ve subsequently moved on to those courses that I had bookmarked thinking – “that would be interesting/useful to look into if I ever get time”. Well now I have the time.

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Covid19 – A Privacy Warning

In these weeks of lockdown in the UK due to Covid-19 there have been a number of incidents of the police overstepping their powers;

The police chief was forced to u-turn in his threat while the forces involved with the other two incidents say that the officers were ‘well intentioned but over zealous’ – but to my mind, that’s not the point.

The point is that there will always be people in a position of authority or power who overstep their remit – and when it come to our privacy that’s not a good thing.

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Covid-19 Support Response – Update

In my previous post I stated that ‘As Directors we are not able to furlough ourselves and therefore would not be eligible for the Governments Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme‘.

I also said ‘the details of these measures are still coming out and there is a great deal of confusion so what I’m about to write may well change going forward‘ – and it has (although a bit quicker than I expected).

If you don’t know who Martin Lewis is then check out the Money Saving Expert website. Basically, when this guy says something, especially it’s all in CAPS then he’s checked and double-checked the facts. He wouldn’t make this kind of statement without being absolutely sure.

If he says that Limited Company Directors CAN furlough themselves – even if they are the sole employee of the company, then that’s good enough for me.

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Covid-19 Support Response

Update: 28th March 2020

With the UK in lock-down due to the CoronaVirus (Covid-19) everyone is justifiably concerned about their jobs and their income.

In an unprecedented move the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a raft of measures from mortgage holidays, deferment of tax payments as well as packages to pay 80% of people income (or £2500/mth).

As wide reaching as the measures are the contractor community is up in arms because we appear to have been left out in the cold.

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