Tech-assisted Contact-Tracing against the COVID-19 pandemic

Today at the ACLU, we released a whitepaper discussing how to evaluate some novel cryptographic schemes that are being considered to provide technology-assisted contact-tracing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The document offers guidelines for thinking about potential schemes like this, and what kinds of safeguards we need to expect and demand from these systems so that we might try to address the (hopefully temporary) crisis of the pandemic without also creating a permanent crisis for civil liberties.

The proposals that we're seeing (including PACT, DP^3T, TCN, and the Apple/Google proposal) work in pretty similar ways, and the challenges and tradeoffs there are remarkably similar to Internet protocol design decisions. Only now in addition to bytes and packets and questions of efficiency, privacy, and control, we're also dealing directly with risk of physical harm (who gets sick?), society-wide allocation of scarce and critical resources (who gets tested? who gets treatment?), and potentially serious means of exercising powerful social control (who gets forced into quarantine?).

My ACLU colleague Jon Callas and i will be doing a Reddit AMA in r/Coronavirus tomorrow starting at 2020-04-17T19:00:00Z (that's 3pm Friday in TZ=America/New_York) about this very topic, if that's the kind of thing you're into.