Will you accept to be monitored by your phone?

Philippe Langlois

There is not that China or South Korea, where cell phones are used to control the pandemic of COVID-19. Such a solution could soon be available in Quebec to face a possible second wave of contamination, if the government Legault gives the green light.

The Institut québécois artificial intelligence (MILA), an NPO made up of university researchers and companies in Québec specialized in artificial intelligence, hopes to start soon the application COVI. It is a downloadable software on your cell phone that uses Bluetooth technology, and geo-location to determine your risk of infection and help medical research.

Our bureau of investigation breaking down for you how it works, its benefits and potential risks, if it sees the light of day, including the issues of protection of privacy.

How to use the application

1. After you have downloaded and opened the application, the user is informed of the implications of privacy issues and is invited to give its consent.

2. Questionnaire to be filled in by the user : its age, its sex, its health, its current symptoms, and the use of a mask,…

3. Home screen with four main elements :

A) personalized Recommendations : this feature helps the user on a daily basis to make decisions on its activities according to its level of risk of infection.

(B) update profile : this function allows the user to enter additional information about it and to update its symptoms, which allows to better adjust its level of risk.

C) Survey and data visualizations

(D) Sharing the app with other people

4. Once the application is configured, the user may receive notifications indicating, for example, that its level of risk of contracting the coronavirus has increased and that it should follow certain recommendations.

5. The user will be able to register in the application the result of the test screening. In future versions, the user will be able to receive it directly in its application the result of the test.

6. If their screening test is positive, the user will be prompted to give its consent for its result will be shared confidentially with people who have crossed recently its route.

How it works

1. The user Alice, for example, conducts its activities on a daily basis and hangs out with her phone. The app measures the risk level of the user to be infected with the coronavirus according to the information of its profile and its physical interactions with other people nearby.

2. When Alice spends time with another user (Bob) who also has the app on his phone, the two cameras record this information, and also exchange of encrypted information on the risk levels of the two users. The strength of the Bluetooth signal is measured on devices, which lets you specify the distance and the duration of their meeting.

3.When more information will be accumulated on the phone to Alice, in the course of its meetings, its risk level will be recalculated and updated.

4. If Alice is contaminated, his device sends encrypted messages to the devices of other users who have crossed his path in the last two weeks, as Bob.

5. Users who have crossed the road of Alice, like Bob, may see their risk increase on their devices.

6. When the device Alice sends a message to the device to Bob, the latter will not know where it came from. He does not know if this is related to his meeting with Alice, unless it has had only one meeting during this specific day.

7. If the risk level of Bob exchange rate, it could then receive notification of new recommendations to adapt its behavior to curb the spread of the virus. Other people who have met Bob could also see the risk level increase per turn, even if they have not crossed Alice.

A concrete example

Since she has crossed Bob, Alice has received a positive test result. She puts her app up to date, indicating that it is now infected. The application, Bob updates and informs her that her level of risk is increasing, because it is found near Alice three days ago. The application can suggest to isolate yourself or go to a test screening.

It could also send a notification to the people with whom Bob has had contact in the last days.

Learn from the data

If the user y agrees, his data secure and anonymised may also be sent to a centralized server which uses artificial intelligence to predict the risk of the user and simulate the evolution of the pandemic.

Predictor of risk

This tool improves with the data of the users to make then better predictions as to when a user has been infected with the coronavirus, and what was the level of contagion in the previous days.

Simulator epidemiological

This simulator could be used by public health authorities to track the evolution of the virus in different ways, and make decisions accordingly. For example, one could use this simulator to map the areas where people are infected quickly, to determine where are the citizens who follow the more or the less the instructions, to simulate the evolution of outbreaks under different scenarios.

The promises of the Mila at the level of the security

  • The data collected are managed by an organization independent, non-profit, and not by government bodies.
  • The data can not be sold to private companies or to be used for profit-making purposes.
  • The data will be destroyed when the pandemic is over.
  • The data will be immediately destroyed if you do not agree to it more.
  • The data are stored locally on the device for each user.
  • The sending of the data is encrypted, anonymised and aggregated.
  • The information contained in the phone are destroyed after 30 days.
  • The data used for the artificial intelligence on the centralized server are destroyed after 90 days.
  • No information that can identify the user (such as a telephone number, or an IP address) will be collected.
  • The team behind the app has worked with the Office of the protection of privacy in Canada, and claims to adhere to the principles of the joint Statement of the commissioners, provincial, territorial and federal protection of privacy on the applications of tracing contacts exposed to the COVID-19.

Sources : white Paper application COVI, MILA.

The balance of the day

  • 5 400 608 cases in the world
  • 344 760 deaths in the world
  • 84 699 cases in Canada
  • 47 411 cases in Quebec
  • + 573 relative to Saturday
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