Your iPhone now has a secret Covid tracker installed

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A weird thing happened to me last week, and I wonder if it happened to you as well. Last Wednesday morning, June 10th, I updated my Iphone with the latest IOS13.5.  Throughout the day I could make calls, but never hear anyone on the call. It persisted most of the day and I worked around it by using FaceTime, Whatsapp, and TextNow.  Today, I stumbled upon many people who had experienced the same exact thing when they downloaded the new update.  One thing I didn’t realize was that the update contained a Covid-19 Tracker. I discovered this is also installed on Androids as well.

I looked on my phone…sure enough – it’s there.

Back in May, Tim Cook announced that it was available, and according to CNET, it uses bluetooth to track users. Well, it’s not just available, but the infrastructure is installed without you choosing. 9to5Mac Informs us that the default setting is to not track; however, I have a healthy amount of skepticism. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear differently months from now, especially if you travel to any country in the near future that mandates such trackers ( the UAE for instance if you’re positive). Regardless, if you downloaded the latest update, you have it on your phone.

Here’s how you can find it…and make sure it’s on or off

Under settings go to Privacy…it’s blue and the last icon before iTunes


Next Click on Health – it’s the one with a heart icon

At the very top you’ll see Covid-19 Exposure Logging

You’ll now see that mine is turned off, if I wanted it on, I would need an app to populate the data.

I’ve written in the past about how the UK is urging everyone to download an app they would develop, but it was just recently announced that they were abandoning this venture in lieu of using one developed by Apple and Google. Personally, I’m extremely reticent to believe that data isn’t already being collected regardless of whether I opt in or not, but for many of your reading, you may not even know the infrastructure is on your phone. You may even want the tracker on. The choice is yours, but personally, I don’t like the idea of tracking technology tied to medical data one bit.

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  • Cindy June 25, 2020

    Funny that you’d fear using your own name on here and hide behind a handle ( I’m assuming for privacy ) but then willfully trust all your location and health information with people that actually have the power to use it against you.

    • prima808 July 3, 2020

      I think most people use a handle because it’s fun. At least least that’s why I use it. Plus it’s just easier since it’s the same one I use for all social media, email, user names, etc. Besides, Prima is my real name so it kinda guessing it wouldn’t be that hard to trace my identity online to begin with. “Cindy” on the other hand would be a little harder to trace without a last name though, no?

  • prima808 June 24, 2020

    I for one, am all for this technology. What’s the big deal about being tracked? Usually, it’s the shady folks doing shady shit that tend to have “privacy” issues. So what are you hiding? The possibility you have covid-19? In which case, if you’re attempting to hide that kind of life or death info from others who may have been in close proximity to you, then you’re an ass. It’s almost like having AIDS and not telling anyone you’ve slept with. Don’t be shady. Transparency is key to fighting this pandemic. Anyways, if google or the gov wants to go poking around my phone, the most controversial thing they’ll find out is youporn in my search history. Oh no!

  • Travel Master 33 June 19, 2020

    You might be a little too concerned about what’s on your device. Apple won’t exactly let us sniff the packets from our devices, but I’d say Apple is generally less nefarious than the googles.

    There is still a lot of debate on this technology. Personally I’ll opt in ASAP as this corona crap is nothing to be f#cking around with.

  • eponymous coward June 19, 2020

    So, you get a phone call.

    “Hello, I am a contact tracer calling from your county department of health. We have reason to believe you have been exposed to COVID. Do you mind if we ask you some questions about where you’ve been the past few days?”

    Do you hang up because they’re from the government and about to invade your privacy and collect some records from you on your movements?

    Now, explain what the difference is between that phone call and that app.

    Bonus question: how many cameras do you think you were on the last time you visited London?

  • Steve June 19, 2020

    It might do you well to understand exactly how the tracing technology works. It’s not as much of a privacy issue as you make it out to be.

  • Nate June 19, 2020

    Typically a big fan of the blog, but I have to say this article is just a touch too sensationalistic for me… The iOS 13.5 update simply updated the iOS operating system to include API capabiliteis that could communicate using Bluetooth.. There is a number of privacy related controls built into this process including rotation of the associated tokens multiple times per day to keep it as anonymous as possible. Collection and reporting on the information requires a third-party app to be downloaded and opt’d in on the phone like any other app that has access to the Health data (e.g. workout apps). The API keys to access this functionality are only available to government agencies that apply and are issues API keys by Apple or Google, every day developers are unable to access this information or interact with this capability. It is not as if information would just be sitting there passively being collecting in the background.. what would it collect anyways? Even if you do download a third-party app and opt-in, personal information/exposure is self-reported, again using of the third-party apps mentioned. I feel like there has been a lot of publicity on this functionality, so not seeing how it is a secret tracker! Regardless keep up the good work on the blog!

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