As the fear over the Coronavirus threat grows and the need for the world to begin spinning again, in one fashion or another, becomes more important, solutions are being developed around the world. One of the most publicized tools being developed has been the
Apple and Google partnership for contact tracing.
The concept is that phones would talk to one another and, if one phone knew that its owner had been infected, it would report that to the phone that came in contact with it. From there, the idea of tracing contact would spider out with each subsequent contact. The reason for the process is to stem the spread. The virus shows no signs of symptoms for around 48 hours and many people never show signs, but you are still highly contagious.
While the concept has real-world value, it also has been met with concern, mostly around privacy. Apple and Google do not have a great track record of protecting user privacy. Combining that with medical information, even second-hand, and data sharing has raised the attention of privacy organizations. As a result, the two companies have made changes to the way the system works even before it releases.
To get started, the contact data will now be encrypted. Why this wasn't part of the original design is a mystery, and lends credence to the concerns raised. To address concerns raised by Avram and me on
last week's show, the API being made available for this project will report Bluetooth signal strength. This allows the app developers to make an educated decision about whether the contact is valid. Bluetooth is strong enough to go from house to house, apartment to apartment, or office to office. Reporting the signal strength will allow for decisions about the actual distance. The keys will also reset every 15 minutes, which addresses my concerns over being able to create a false Bluetooth beacon to incorrectly spread data.
In addition to the changes to the API structure, the system is getting a new name. Since "contact tracing" has been met with such strong negative emotions, the pair have rebranded the process to "exposure notification." This new name does more accurately describe the goal as opposed to the process, an issue that Silicon Valley has long struggled with.
The API is scheduled to become public next month, but it will still require an opt-in process to make it work.
Last September, WarnerMedia inked a deal with JJ Abrams and his production company Bad Robot to produce a wide variety of content, including TV, movies, and videogames through 2024. The full details of the deal were not revealed, but the beginning of the company's plans have been revealed this week, with three original programs being announced. The shows will be produced by Bad Robot, with Abrams acting as Executive Producer. The three new shows will all be distributed by Warner Bros. International Television Distribution and released under the HBO Max streaming service, which recently announced a partnership with Charter. The three announced shows are
DC Justice League Dark, Overlook, and Duster.
The new entry in the DC comics family will be focused on the more mystical side of the Justice League stories. This will include a number of occult-based characters like
John Constantine and Zatanna. Beyond this, very little official information is known about the series, as WarnerMedia has been very controlling of the details.
The next series,
Overlook, is based on Stephen King's work The Shining. This series will not be Abrams' first foray into the world of Stephen King, as Bad Robot was previously involved in the successful Castle Rock series on Hulu. King's work is a perfect pairing for Abrams' as the projects that made him a household name, like Lost and Cloverfield were in a similar genre.
The final series,
Duster, will be a collaboration between Bad Robot and WarnerMedia itself and is setting the 1970s American Southwest. Unlike the other two, this one appears to be an original story and not based on an existing popular franchise.
The HBO Max service is expected to release next month, but these new shows are just entering their early production phase. There is no announced release dates for the shows, but expect them to be published on a staggered schedule.