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A Tale of Global Solidarity: Contact-Tracing Sans Frontier

This crisis is an opportunity for us to shape a global solidarity and togetherness.

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The epidemics curve has been rising exponentially beyond healthcare capacities, and the financial markets are plummeting, across the globe. We are running out of time.

However, it is the absence of global solidarity that concerns me the most. Since the COVID 19 outbreak, we have seen the overflow of misinformation and the global blame game — pushing humanity towards disunity. 

Yuval Noah Harari presented us two paths ahead of the pandemic — global disunity or global solidarity. To thrive, we have no choice but choose global solidarity.

1. No tracing, no ending.

All statistics indicate contact tracing is critical for curbing the COVID-19 virus. An automated and extensive platform of tracing can minimize the cycle time for detection, treatment, isolation, and certification of recovery. 

Contact-tracing is as important a step to take as ‘social distancing’ to end this war. It can drastically improve containment efficacy, and in many instances, make quarantine unnecessary.

While options are available to individuals and governments, they can be overwhelming, confusing and scary to adopt.

2. Tracing has been local.

Success stories can be found in Asia. Yet, the adoption of tracing tools is limited in California and the US at large. Why the difference? 

One of the critical challenges in the US is privacy protection. Tracing, to date, has meant compromising privacy — users have to give away their identities, their locations, and even their biometric data. This is how the current options work.

3. To be or not to be, that’s the question. 

Liberal democracy needs a privacy-first version of contact tracing. Between surveillance and Covid19, we do NOT have to be subject to one or the other. 

When Micha, the CEO of Nodle, first reached out and told me about building a privacy-first contact tracing platform, I jumped onto it. After all, I want to act for global solidarity.

Despite being from different worlds — I a Chinese woman having lived in France and Micha a Frenchman having worked in Asia — we were on the same page. We both agreed that we had to make a privacy-centric and identity-less platform. This would be the only path to adoption and, therefore, the only path to ending this war globally. 

4. We believe in “sans-frontier”.

We want the tracing platform to be universal and geo-less. It must be accessible to all and available to all people. So we decide to call it COALITION. It is a privacy-first contact tracing platform built to fight the spread of COVID-19.

We also believe that “sans frontier” cannot happen without a team of diversity and unity. So we are American, Chinese, French, and Russian.  

Along with that diversity, we have a shared culture of global solidarity. We have a shared value of privacy. And we have a shared belief — that to stop the virus, we need to be even more viral. This is our coalition.

5. “Privacy-first” is no fake-news. 

So how do we protect privacy? It is critical to understand first how privacy is breached.  It is when: 

  • Users don’t have the option to opt in the networks.
  • Users have to upload their location data to the cloud, where it can be tracked and monitored by a central entity.
  • Data is attached to identities.
  • Platforms are not GDPR or CCPA compliant.

Therefore, to protects privacy, we need to ensure:

  • Users’ location data is never sent to the cloud — this is a key differentiator from all other platforms.
  • Bluetooth contact proximity data is encrypted and stays on the user’s device (phone).
  • The users are sole owners of the data — the users notify prior contacts anonymously through encrypted channels when they fall sick of COVID19.
  • All personally identifiable data are anonymized.

Turning back the virus will require nothing short of a miraculous effort. This crisis is an opportunity for us to shape the global solidarity.

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