Exposure Notifications

I turned on the iOS bluetooth exposure notification thing when it came out (May 2020?) Since then, I've never gotten a single notification. I'm at DNA Lounge nearly every night we're open, which means that I'm in close proximity to thousands of strangers per week. And though DNA Lounge has the strictest vaccination policy in the country, having gotten zero notifications still seems... unexpected. Possibilities include:

  • I have not been in bluetooth range of one of the infected.
  • Not nearly enough people have opted in to this system.
  • Not nearly enough of those who have become infected have volunteered that information to the system.

My phone says I had 82 exposure checks in the last 14 days, which seems to be all that it saves. I guess that sounds low?

Exposure notifications are a deeply flawed system (proximity is a poor substitute for contact tracing) but false positives should be expected to be the most common failure mode.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

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11 Responses:

  1. Reed says:

    I have 86 exposure checks in the last 14 days and I am stuck at home with a newborn infant. Other than going to a nearly deserted restaurant twice and grocery shopping once, I can’t remember leaving the house.
    Surreal that I have more checks than you do. Something seems not quite right

    • Elusis says:

      I have 88 exposure checks in the past 14 days including 6 yesterday when I went to a meetup at a bar and then to an IDLES concert, and 4 today when I literally have not left the 4 walls of my house. I suspect # of checks isn't particularly meaningful as they're just done at the interval of ~6 per day.

  2. Craig says:

    Same. Although my biggest risk is the twice a week trip to either a grocery or hardware store. I suspect that there's not nearly enough uptake to make the system work as designed.

    In other news, Japan which has universal masking, a higher vaccination rate than the US, and much more densely populated cities, had zero covid deaths yesterday. Anecdotal evidence that compliance saves lives.

  3. Not Frank says:

    A fourth possibility, bureaucratic incompetence: I know in my state, across the country, there were multiple reports of people unable to get the requisite code from the state DoH so the app would trigger exposure alerts once they tested positive.

    That said, the number of folks using the app here seems to be minimal, with total installations being a fraction of the state population; if it wasn't for the (poor-quality, but still useful) graphs of new cases and depths, including per-county, I'd probably have uninstalled it by now.

  4. Marten says:

    Isn't an exposure check for when downloads a new list of known infected keys? If you click on one, it tells you "0 matched keys", and how many keys it downloaded in which files. The 0 matched presumably means you met 0 of those keys.

    • jwz says:

      Beats me.

      Scrolling through the log, it seems like almost all of them have the source US-CA. Maybe that means these are downloads from the network, rather than nearby bluetooth hits? I haven't seen one with a different source.

      I have logs that say "Matched key count: 2; provided key count: 1,140" that happened today at 6am and 10am, and I have been alone in my apartment this whole time.

    • tfb says:

      I think that's exactly what it is. I suspect based on looking at timestamps that it pulls data every 4 hours. I'm im the UK but I think all the iOS apps are shims around whatever Apple provided, despite our government's attempt to write something more intrusive which didn't work[*].

      (Entertainingly my app is telling me '1 matched key' for the last few pulls. Presumably it's not alerting me because the johnsonites decided they could deal with the problem of lots of people getting alerted by turning down the sensitivity. Because, obviously, the virus will not dare infect you if the mighty and all-knowing Johnson says it must not.)

      [*] It may never have been intended to work, but only have existed as a way of funnelling money from taxes, via the chums who never intended to implement it and hence, some of it, via backhanders into the pockets of the yellow clown.

  5. ng says:

    i have received a notification once, and my wife who was seated next to me, did not. it was a result of our friend reporting that they tested positive. i was sitting between my wife and my friend. The rules apparently say that you must be within 6 feet of a person for at least 15 minutes. one could easily contract covid more quickly than that

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, like I said, it is not a good system. However, even with rules like that, I would have expected to get a ping by now!

  6. echomrg says:

    in the italian exposure tracking system (Immuni) positives could only be recorded by medical personnel.

    in italy the health system is governed at the regional level but the tracking system was a central government initiative, in regions controlled by the opposition party governors explicitly told medical personnel not to report positives in the systems.

    it took ages for this to surface. in the meanwhile the exposure system, which was never widely adopted anyway, failed miserably.

  7. n says:

    I live in New Zealand, a country with a slightly larger population than the Bay Area.

    Purely by accident, and the fact that many of our travelers come from competently run governments like the PRC, we had pretty much avoided COVID outbreaks until this year. In August, Delta came in.. which seems very likely to have come from traveler who came in via private jet from the American empire. Despite the fact that thousands have been infected, there have been only a few tens of people notified via the BT tracing (which 1.5 million people are enrolled in).

    The simple fact is these kind of notifications, which rightly tell people that they are at risk and should stay at home until tested, are bad for business, so evil neoliberal regimes like those of Jacinda Ardern or London Breed won't allow them to be utilized. That would suggest those affected should be 'cared for' until they are clear, which causes the neoliberal to break out in hives.

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