Het kabinet wil telecommunicatiegegevens gebruiken in de strijd tegen de verspreiding van het corona virus. Hiertoe heeft het ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat heeft een voorstel voor een “Tijdelijke wet informatieverstrekking RIVM i.v.m. COVID-19” ingediend. Na kritiek van de Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens (AP) is het voorstel aangepast. Maar ik maak me nog steeds zorgen.

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I wrote a critical piece about the Google Apple Contact Tracing (GACT) platform a few days ago. This resulted in quite some discussion, which brought some more arguments to the fore, that I would like to address and clarify here. Here I focus on my area of expertise: privacy. My colleague Tamar Sharon wrote an eloquent article about the (much) broader picture, that we should definitely not lose sight of.

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The European Commission published a common toolbox for contact tracing and some guidance on such apps in relation to data protection. Here is a critical analysis.

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Apple and Google released a joint specification that allows both iPhones and Android devices to do contact tracing on a global scale. Even though “privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance”, this is a game changing event that has grave consequences. We must stop Apple and Google in their tracks. Or else ditch our smartphones as they will truly become the Stasi agents in our pockets.

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When grading exams, teachers typically award a number of points to each answer given, up to a certain predetermined maximum number of points for every question on the exam. The grade for the exam is a function of the total number of points scored. This function is called the norm of the exam. Often, teachers adjust this norm depending on how well (or how poorly) students performed. As a teacher you typically want 60-70% of the students to pass your exam.

With the current Covid-19 pandemic, exams are increasingly held remotely. This increases the opportunities for fraud: students may call each other, secretly share answers using shared documents, or use inadmissible tools like certain calculators or software, etc.

This creates a kind of prisoner’s dilemma for students that do not want to cheat, but know that their fellow students could easily do so. If many students cheat, the overall exam results will be pretty good. This may lead to an adjustment of the norm. The norm may be made more strict, meaning that you need more points to pass the exam. This puts people that didn’t cheat at a disadvantage: they are likely to score fewer points than those that did. So even if you are inclined not to cheat, knowing that your fellow students might cheat creates a strong incentive to cheat as well (especially if the topic of the exam is not one you excel at).

Can this dilemma be defused? Certainly. As a teacher you should publicly commit to a norm well before the start of your exam. And if you decide to deviate from the norm, only do so to adjust for a poorly made exam by lowering the norm. This way, honest students are certain they will never be adversely affected by fellow students that decide to cheat.

De regering wil een app laten ontwikkelen die vertelt je of je in de buurt bent geweest van een andere gebruiker die besmet blijkt te zijn, en sluit niet uit dat die app verplicht wordt. De privacy moet wel gewaarborgd worden, zegt de regering. Vraag is wat dat betekent.

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Tests that detect Covid-19 antibodies are becoming available. This allows authorities to test whether people already contracted the virus, and therefore are now immune and no longer a carrier of the virus. Once tested, such people could be exempted from certain restrictions (like staying inside or working from home), or could volunteer to help vulnerable people that stay in quarantine. The question is: how do you reliably prove that you have tested positive for such an antibody test, while protecting the privacy of people being tested. After all, we do not know yet what the long term health effect is of having been infected by the virus. It may be a perk and a badge of honour now, but it may be a stain in your health dossier in the years to come.

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