NOVID Provides COVID-19 Early Warning System

Originally published at: NOVID Provides COVID-19 Early Warning System - TidBITS

We’re drowning in data about COVID-19—infection rates, hospitalizations, and fatalities. But none of that data can answer the question of what your personal risk of infection is. With the NOVID app—and sufficient uptake in your community—you can know just how close infections are to you.

Our state government has mandated that all must register via QR symbols whenever entering a shop, hotel, club house, playing grounds and more. We log on using the government issued QR reader and only our name, mobile (cell) numbers and location are recorded. We only need to enter our name and mobile (cell) details once. The process has become second nature.

If somebody does become positive to the virus, then the government can use its system to do the same as proposed by NOVID and trace everybody who has been in the same place and at the same time as that person testing positive. The system can do the tracing very quickly and thereby reducing the likelihood of further spreading.

There are a few citizens who protest about civil liberties and refuse to use the system, but they get short shrift and we like it when they get fined.

What state is that?

So, now that you’ve all installed NOVID :slight_smile:, how many people are in your community, and are you meeting other NOVID users in the wild? It likely won’t happen right away, but I’m encouraging my local friends to install as well to build out my personal early warning system. The other group I’m evangelizing to right now is the local food co-op. It’s a lot of people from around the community all congregating on a single shared space to do their grocery shopping. Plus, it’s a relatively cohesive group compared to the usual grocery store, which wouldn’t have as many ways to communicate with shoppers.

I was a bit disappointed to see that despite being in a college town I was only no. 3 to sign up. A couple days later there’s still only 6 people in my ZIP (my wife being one of them). So far she’s been my only contact (I guess that’s kind of the point of SIP), but at least she’s showing as prolonged. :laughing:

I heard from several people I tried to get to sign up that they’d join once more people were on it. Um, yeah. Ugh. :roll_eyes: :wink:

Clearly NOVID needs to gamify this a bit more. It’s a little tricky with everything being anonymous, but at least communities could compete to see which had the most uptake. When I first started, my ZIP was at 3, and now it’s up to 9. But if people would just invite two others…

It is the State Government of New South Wales of Australia. Our other states and territories have implemented similar apps as they each have their own health systems and people.

This post might read as if I am paranoid. I am, but my questions are motivated more by curiosity than paranoia, in this case.

The Privacy Policy says the App collects the device’s BSSID and SSID and possibly the first half of the IP address. Where can I find my device’s BSSID and SSID? (A search in Settings did not find these items.) Much of the time, my iPad is not connected to the internet, so I expect it would not have an IP address. What does this mean for my usage?

These are Wi-Fi parameters.

The SSID is the name of the wireless network you’re connected to. The BSSID is the access point’s MAC address.

And NOVID collects these because it does a broad proximity search based on devices that are using the same Wi-Fi network. That’s really imprecise, however, so then it looks via Bluetooth and then ultrasound, if enabled.

Thanks, @Shamino and @ace. No wonder I couldn’t find the information in Settings > General > About.

By “not connected to the internet”, I mean that Cellular Data is off and no Wi-Fi network is selected. In that case, if I understand correctly, I have no SSID, BSSID, or IP address. Would you expect that NOVID would adapt somehow and still be useful? Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both turned on.

Hmm… First off, NOVID is only really useful on devices that you carry with you when you’re interacting with other people. So for an iPad, it would have to be something you carry with you while you’re out. If that’s true, but you aren’t connected to a Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi won’t be useful as a proximity-detection method, but Bluetooth (and optionally ultrasound) will be. Wi-Fi isn’t particularly useful for proximity-detection because its range is so large.

At this time, I am not interacting with other people much. Also, at this time, I generally do have the iPad with me. Also also at this time, NOVID says my community has one member, so all this is rather academic.

But my original question was what does NOVID do when it cannot follow the procedures it outlines it its Privacy Policy. In other words, if my iPad doesn’t have an SSID or a BSSID or an IP address, can NOVID ever detect that my iPad is near another device that is running NOVID and report it to my device? Or to the other device?

Yes, as I said, it uses Bluetooth or ultrasound, which are better than Wi-Fi anyway.

I installed it on my iPhone and gave it the Zip code prefixes for Fort Worth and Dallas. So I’m in two “Communities.” There are 2 members in each. Not too useful.

That is not, of course, what NOVID does. NOVID doesn’t actually know who anybody is.

Thanks. I drew the wrong assumption. No point then in installing NOVID.

Thanks for that hint. I hadn’t realized I could enter two ZIP codes. I have now done so. You’re ahead of me, though. In the newly added community, there is one member (presumably me), and in the first community, there are two members (presumably me, since I installed NOVID on a second iOS device).

I reread the Privacy Policy and concluded that I made an unwarranted assumption that NOVID used the SSID and BSSID and IP address to detect proximity. But I’m left wondering what it does do with those items, and what it does if those items are not available.

That’s too bad, but think of it this way. If you encourage your friends to install it and tell them they need to evangelize as well, you could responsible for starting the viral growth locally. :slight_smile:

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There is a point, which is that it can help you evaluate your personal risk based on the infection closeness in your contact network. It’s about giving you information that you can use to determine your behavior, not help with contact tracing after the fact (the Apple/Google technology does that).

Now, the fact that you’re in Australia, where the infection levels are pretty low, does make it less interesting, I think, since people are probably quite a bit less worried than they are in the US and in other parts of the world.

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