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What Happens When Tech Companies Offer to Fight Coronavirus With Digital Surveillance?

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pn, 2020-03-23 01:57
"White House officials are asking tech companies for more insight into our social networks and travel patterns," reports Wired, noting that Facebook even "created a disease mapping tool that tracks the spread of disease by aggregating user travel patterns." And Clearview AI "says it is in talks with public officials to use its software to identify anyone in contact with people who are infected." Such efforts clash with people's expectations of privacy. Now, there's a compelling reason to collect and share the data; surveillance may save lives. But it will be difficult to draw boundaries around what data is collected, who gets to use it, and how long the collection will continue... "What's really important is for the government to be really clear in articulating what specific public health goals it's seeking to accomplish," said Kelsey Finch, senior counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum, an industry-backed group focused on tech policy. "And how it's limiting the collection of personal data to what's necessary to achieve those very specific goals, and then making sure that there are appropriate privacy safeguards put in place before data starts to change hands...." Some privacy scholars question whether enhanced surveillance in the name of fighting disease can be dialed back once the danger has passed. "I'm not sure that we should be making longer-term judgments, in an emergency situation, about what the right balance is right now," said Jennifer Daskal, faculty director of the Tech, Law, and Security program at American University and a former national security official in the Department of Justice. "That often doesn't work out so well." Pointing back to 9/11, when Congress granted immense surveillance powers to the federal government, Daskal said decisions made during emergency situations tend to lead to overreach... The rapid spread of the disease has prompted even some traditional defenders of personal privacy to acknowledge the potential benefits of digital tracking. "Public policy must reflect a balance between collective good and civil liberties in order to protect the health and safety of our society from communicable disease outbreaks," the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a blog post earlier this month. But, the group continued, any data collection "must be scientifically justified and ⦠proportionate to the need."

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German Leader Angela Merkel in Quarantine after Her Doctor Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-03-22 21:11
An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her has tested positive for the new coronavirus. Merkel's spokesman said the German chancellor was informed about the doctor's test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus. The 65-year-old Chancellor will continue her work from home. UPDATE: (3/25/2019):Merkel tested negative in a second test, "and will undergo another test at the beginning of next week," reports Reuters, citing a statement from a government spokesman.

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US Senator Rand Paul Has Tested Positive for Coronavirus

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-03-22 20:43
An anonymous reader writes: 57-year-old U.S. Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, reports CNN, citing a tweet from the senator's Twitter account. "He is feeling fine and is in quarantine," the tweet reports. "He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person." Another tweet adds that "Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul." Paul plans to continue working while in quarantine, and hopes to return to the Senate after his quarantine period ends.

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WSJ: Narrow Testing Guidelines By America's CDC 'Hid' the Growing US Epidemic

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-03-22 17:34
The Wall Street Journal reports that as the coronavirus pandemic began, America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "provided restrictive guidance on who should be tested." They're basing that on archived pages on the CDC's own web site. "While agencies in other countries were advising and conducting widespread testing, the CDC, charged with setting the U.S. standard for who should be tested for the virus, kept its criteria limited." Once the CDC deferred testing evaluations to individual physicians and rolled out testing widely, early data show a surge in positive cases, so public-health officials expect a clearer picture of the epidemic's scale to emerge... Containing a virus requires identifying and isolating those who are infected, infectious-disease and public-health experts say. "If we would have had a true understanding of the extent of the disease several weeks ago, implementation of social-distancing measures could have prevented the escalation of the disease," said Neil Fishman, chief medical officer at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and an infectious-disease specialist... Initially, the CDC recommended only investigating those who had symptoms and had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, or made contact with someone who may have the virus. As the outbreak worsened, it expanded the criteria for travel history slowly, but maintained its recommendation that symptoms be present, despite some cases having mild or no symptoms. Now, the CDC has turned over authority to physicians to determine who gets tested, but the testing rates vary widely by state. America's response was also hampered by "a botched initial test batch," according to the article, which meant there were fewer tests available until the agency allowed private laboratories to develop tests.

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Russia Accused of Deploying Coronavirus Disinformation to Sow Distrust

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-03-22 11:34
AmiMoJo quotes Reuters: Russian media have deployed a "significant disinformation campaign" against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters... The EU document said the Russian campaign, pushing fake news online in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French, uses contradictory, confusing and malicious reports to make it harder for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic. "A significant disinformation campaign by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets regarding COVID-19 is ongoing," said the nine-page internal document, dated March 16, using the name of the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus. "The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries...in line with the Kremlin's broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies," the document produced by the EU's foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service, said. The article notes that while Russia calls the accusations "unfounded," the EU has recorded nearly 80 cases of coronavirus disinformation since January 22nd. Responding to the report, America's Secretary of State also criticized disinformation efforts coming from China and Iran, according to U.S. News and World Report. He adds that the U.S. government has since contacted all three of the disinformation-spreading countries. "They need to knock it off. We don't approve of it. The idea of transparency and accuracy in information is very important."

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Forbes: Hack on Putin's Intelligence Agency Finds Weapon to Exploit IoT Vulnerabilities

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - N, 2020-03-22 09:34
"Red faces in Red Square, again," writes a Forbes cybersecurity correspondent: Last July, I reported on the hacking of SyTech, an FSB contractor working on internet surveillance tech. Now, reports have emerged from Russia of another shocking security breach within the FSB ecosystem. This one has exposed "a new weapon ordered by the security service," one that can be used to execute cyber attacks on IoT devices. The goal of the so-called "Fronton Program" is to exploit IoT security vulnerabilities en masse — remember, these technologies are fundamentally less secure than other connected devices in homes and offices... The security contractors highlight retained default "factory" passwords as the obvious weakness, one that is easy to exploit... The intent of the program is not to access the owners of those devices, but rather to herd them together into a botnet that can be used to attack much larger targets — think major U.S. and European internet platforms, or the infrastructure within entire countries, such as those bordering Russia. But the article also notes that targetted devices for the exploits include cameras, adding that compromising such devices in foreign countries by a nation-state agency "carries other surveillance risks as well." It also points out that the FSB "is the successor to the KGB and reports directly to Russia's President Vladimir Putin," and its responsibilities include electronic intelligence gathering overseas. "The fact that these kind of tools are being contracted out for development given the current geopolitical climate should give us all serious pause for thought."

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To Slow Coronavirus Spread, Singapore Creates a Contact-Tracing App

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-03-21 23:34
ZDNet reports that Singapore is fighting the coronavirus with a new smartphone app named "TraceTogether". The app is able to estimate the distance between TraceTogether smartphones as well as the duration of such interactions. The data then is captured, encrypted, and stored locally on the user's phone for 21 days, which spans the incubation period of the virus. When needed in contact tracing, users will have to authorise the uploading of their TraceTogether data to Singapore's Ministry of Health, which then will assess the information and retrieve the mobile numbers of close contacts within that period of time. Developed by Government Technology Agency (GovTech), alongside the health ministry, the app was designed to help speed up the contact tracing process and stem the spread of COVID-19, the government IT office said. GovTech said the current processed depended heavily on the memory of patients, who might not be ale to remember all close contacts or have the contact details and information of these individuals. The mobile app can plug the gaps and more quickly identify potential carriers, who then can monitor their health and take the necessary action sooner... Data logs were stored locally on the mobile phone and contained only cryptographically generated temporary IDs. The data logs would be extracted only when needed by the authorities for contact tracing, it said.

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Russia Will Ban the Issuing and Selling of Cryptocurrencies

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-03-21 22:34
A senior Russian official says an upcoming digital assets bill will ban the issuing and selling of cryptocurrencies. Forbes reports: "We believe there are big risks of legalizing the operations with the cryptocurrencies, from the standpoint of financial stability, money laundering prevention and consumer protection," Russia's central bank head of legal, Alexey Guznov, told Russia news agency Interfax this week in comments translated to English via Google. "We are opposed to the fact that there are institutions that organize the release of cryptocurrency and facilitate its circulation," Guznov said, adding the coming bill "directly formulates a ban on the issue, as well as on the organization of circulation of cryptocurrency, and introduces liability for violation of this ban...." However, Guznov admitted that Russia would not be able to completely ban bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. "Nobody is going to ban owning cryptocurrencies," Guznov said, adding people will not be punished for owning crypto "if they made their deal in a jurisdiction that does not prohibit that."

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America's FDA Authorizes Fast Coronavirus Testing System

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-03-21 21:34
America's Food and Drug Administration has approved a coronavirus test from a company called Cepheid. It can deliver its results in about 45 minutes, "much faster than current tests that require a sample to be sent to a centralized lab, where results can take days," reports The Hill: The test has been designed to operate on any of Cepheid's more than 23,000 automated GeneXpert Systems worldwide, of which 5,000 are in the U.S., the company said. The systems are already being used to test for conditions such as HIV and tuberculosis. The systems do not require users to have specialty training to perform testing and are capable of running around the clock. "An accurate test delivered close to the patient can be transformative" and can "help alleviate the pressure" that the COVID-19 outbreak has put on health facilities, David Persing, Cepheid's chief medical and technology officer, said in a statement.

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Are There Security Risks When Millions are Suddenly Working from Home?

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-03-21 20:34
"The dramatic expansion of teleworking by U.S. schools, businesses and government agencies in response to the coronavirus is raising fresh questions about the capacity and security of the tools many Americans use to connect to vital workplace systems and data," reports CNN: As of last week the Air Force's virtual private networking software could only support 72,000 people at once, according to a federal contractor who was also not authorized to speak on the record, and telework briefing materials viewed by CNN. The Air Force employs over 145,000 in-house civilian workers, and over 130,000 full-time contractors. As they increasingly log on from home, Americans are having to meld their personal technology with professional tools at unprecedented scale. For employers, the concern isn't just about capacity, but also about workers introducing new potential vulnerabilities into their routine — whether that's weak passwords on personal computers, poorly secured home WiFi routers, or a family member's device passing along a computer virus. Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein also worries about a world where "doctors switch to heavy use of video office visits, and in general more critical information than ever is suddenly being thrust onto the Internet..." For example, the U.S. federal government is suspending key aspects of medical privacy laws to permit use of "telemedicine" via commercial services that have never been certified to be in compliance with the strict security and privacy rules associated with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The rush to provide more remote access to medical professionals is understandable, but we must also understand the risks of data breaches that once having occurred can never be reversed.

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Google vs. Oracle Case Postponed Due to Coronavirus

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-03-21 16:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Dev newsletter from Inside.com: The U.S. Supreme Court has postponed hearing oral arguments in the Google vs. Oracle copyright case and all other cases because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the Supreme Court has done so since the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. ["The Court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks," the announcement points out.] "The court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances," the announcement added. Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court were scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Google vs. Oracle case on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, before making a decision a few months later.

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Locked-Down Lawyers Warned Alexa Is Hearing Confidential Calls

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-03-21 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: As law firms urge attorneys to work from home during the global pandemic, their employees' confidential phone calls with clients run the risk of being heard by Amazon and Google. Mishcon de Reya LLP, the U.K. law firm that famously advised Princess Diana on her divorce and also does corporate law, issued advice to staff to mute or shut off listening devices like Amazon's Alexa or Google's voice assistant when they talk about client matters at home, according to a partner at the firm. It suggested not to have any of the devices near their work space at all. Mishcon's warning covers any kind of visual or voice enabled device, like Amazon and Google's speakers. But video products such as Ring, which is also owned by Amazon, and even baby monitors and closed-circuit TVs, are also a concern, said Mishcon de Reya partner Joe Hancock, who also heads the firm's cybersecurity efforts. The firm worries about the devices being compromised, less so with name-brand products like Alexa, but more so for a cheap knock-off devices, he added.

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Ex-Uber Engineer Pleads Guilty To Stealing Trade Secrets From Google

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - So, 2020-03-21 01:30
Anthony Levandowski, former Google engineer and a pioneer of self-driving car tech, agreed to plead guilty Thursday to stealing trade secrets from the internet giant. CNET reports: Levandowski left Google in 2016 to start his own self-driving truck company, which was quickly acquired by Uber for $680 million. These actions set off a chain of events that led to Google's autonomous vehicle unit, Waymo, suing Uber over alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets. That lawsuit settled in February 2018 with Uber agreeing to pay Waymo $245 million. The prosecutors indicted Levandowski in August in a suit that involves 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google. The activities allegedly took place as he prepared to leave the search giant to build out Uber's self-driving car operation. Levandowski pleaded guilty to one count of trade secret theft in an agreement in which federal prosecutors agree to drop the remaining charges, according to a filing with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California. The plea carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. "I downloaded these files with the intent to use them for my own personal benefit, and I understand that I was not authorized to take the files for this purpose," Levandowski said in the filing. No sentencing date has yet been scheduled.

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Coronavirus Disruption Risks Damaging the 2020 United States Census

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-03-20 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Economist: When the 2020 United States census, scheduled for April 1st, was planned, the areas of most concern were mapped. They include places like Deep East Texas, an area of 10,000 square miles north-east of Houston with a population of roughly 385,000 people. In large parts of the region most people do not have internet access. Many live in places only accessible with four-wheel drives. Counting everybody in Deep East Texas was never going to be easy. Now it looks like it may be near impossible. "The coronavirus has certainly complicated matters," says Lonnie Hunt, the director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (detcog), an intergovernmental agency. To help ensure an accurate count, detcog had hired a dozen census coordinators to go out to community events -- sports matches, church services, school sports days -- with information to persuade people to send their returns in, and internet hotspots and iPads with which to do it on the spot. Most of those events are now being cancelled. With people staying indoors, they probably will not encounter any of the workers meant to explain to them the importance of the census and get them to fill it in. The virus may represent the biggest threat to the United States census in its 230-year history. So far the Census Bureau has only made modest changes. On March 18th the agency announced that all field operations are to be suspended until April 1st. On other surveys officials will make phone calls instead of visits. It has asked administrators of "group quarters" -- institutions like nursing homes, prisons and college dormitories -- to "choose a way to count their residents that requires less in-person contact." But more radical adjustments may be needed. Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former director of the House committee that oversees the census, notes that the count takes ten years to plan, and "yet now the Census Bureau is being forced to make shifts basically on the fly." On March 17th Brazil announced it would delay its census by a year. American officials might have to consider that, too.

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California Governor Issues Statewide Order To 'Stay At Home' To Prevent Spread of the Coronavirus

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-03-20 03:57
All residents in the state of California are being ordered to "stay at home" to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. "We need to bend the curve in the state of California," Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press conference. "There's a social contract here, people I think recognize the need to do more. They will adjust and adapt as they have." Newsom added: "Home isolation is not my preferred choice... but it is a necessary one. This is not a permanent state, it is a moment in time." As of publication, 19 people in California have died and another 958 have tested positive for the disease. "The state projects that 25.5 million people in California will be infected with the coronavirus over an eight-week period," reports Los Angeles Times, citing a letter Newsom sent to President Trump on Wednesday. Newsom is requesting $1 billion in federal funds to support the state's medical response to the virus. He's also requesting the deployment of the U.S. Navy's Mercy Hospital Ship to the Port of Los Angeles through Sept. 1. "The economic disruption caused by this public health crisis will have immediate and devastating effects on our entire country, including too many families in California," Newsom wrote. "The magnitude of this crisis is extraordinary and federal-state-local government coordination will be more critical than ever before."

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IT Security Report Finds 97 Percent Have Suspicious Network Activity

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Pt, 2020-03-20 02:50
According to a 13-page study from IT security vendor Positive Technologies, a whopping 97% of surveyed companies with at least 1,000 employees show evidence of suspicious activity in their network traffic and that 81% of the companies were being subject to malicious activity. TechRepublic reports: "In one in every three companies, there were traces of scans of its internal network, which could potentially mean that hackers are gathering intelligence inside the infrastructure. This includes network scans, multiple failed attempts to connect to hosts, and traces of collecting intelligence on active network sessions on a specific host or in the entire domain." Another alarming statistic from the research showed that 94% of the participating companies in the study suffered from noncompliance with their corporate security policies within their IT infrastructure systems, leaving them more vulnerable to successful cyberattacks, according to the report. Noncompliance with IT security policies "has a direct impact on security deterioration, by practically opening the door for the hackers to exploit," the report continued. Also worrisome is that 81% of the participating companies are transmitting their sensitive data in clear text, or text that is not encrypted or meant to be encrypted, according to the research. By using only risky clear text, companies can enable potential hackers to search their network traffic for logins and passwords which are moving between and across corporate networks. Meanwhile, some 67% of the companies allow the use of remote access software, such as RAdmin, TeamViewer, and Ammyy Admin, which can also be compromised by attackers to move along the network while remaining undetected by security tools, the report states. In addition, workers in 44% of the companies use BitTorrent for data transfer, which dramatically can increase the risk of malware infection. Ultimately, 92% of these network security threats were detected inside the perimeters of the companies that were surveyed, according to the report, which reveals the depth of the problems and the need for constant internal network monitoring.

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NASA's SLS Moon Rocket Is 44 Percent Over Budget and 3 Years Behind Schedule, Report Says

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Cz, 2020-03-19 01:40
schwit1 shares a report from UPI: Construction on NASA's mobile launcher program for the new Space Launch System moon rocket is 44 percent over budget and three years behind schedule, a new report said. The space agency has built one massive rolling platform to move its moon rockets, with another on the way. Crews are adapting the first launcher to be mated with the SLS rocket for its first launch, planned later this year. But the first launcher cost $308 million more than a budget set in 2014, for a total of $693 million, according to the report released Tuesday from NASA's Office of Inspector General. Construction of the first platform "lacked coordination and competition with design contractors, coupled with ... design errors and integration challenges that drove the project's cost increases and schedule delays," the report said.

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Medical Company Threatens To Sue Volunteers That 3D-Printed Valves for Life-Saving Coronavirus Treatments

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-03-18 17:29
A medical device manufacturer has threatened to sue a group of volunteers in Italy that 3D printed a valve used for life-saving coronavirus treatments. From a report: The valve typically costs about $11,000 from the medical device manufacturer, but the volunteers were able to print replicas for about $1. A hospital in Italy was in need of the valves after running out while treating patients for COVID-19. The hospital's usual supplier said they could not make the valves in time to treat the patients. That launched a search for a way to 3D print a replica part, and Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli, who work at Italian startup Isinnova, offered their company's printer for the job. However, when the pair asked the manufacturer of the valves for blueprints they could use to print replicas, the company declined and threatened to sue for patent infringement. Fracassi and Ramaioli moved ahead anyway by measuring the valves and 3D printing three different versions of them.

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Popcorn Time, the 'Netflix For Piracy,' Is Back Online

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Śr, 2020-03-18 00:00
Popcorn Time, the highly popular and extremely-easy-to-use "Netflix for piracy" service, came back Tuesday after a years-long hiatus. The move comes as people around the world are quarantined or being asked to stay in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Motherboard reports: Popcorn Time allows people to stream movies using BitTorrent, without actually downloading the movies or worrying about finding a tracker to use. Essentially, it removes any torrenting learning curve, allowing people to (illegally) stream movies and television shows from an easy-to-use app. Because it's so simple to use, Popcorn Time became instantly popular upon its release in 2014 and was immediately targeted by the movie industry. The service was shut down multiple times by court order, police raids, and IP blocks all over the world between 2014 and now; the open source app was forked several times and has worked intermittently, but has been largely offline over the last few years. Within the last couple days, a new version of Popcorn Time popped up on Popcorntime.app, version 4.0. The new app works just as well as earlier versions of the app, is free, and implores people to use virtual private networks to avoid having their use of the app detected by their internet service providers. The app has been released while many around the world are quarantined, and also comes at a time when piracy is becoming more popular, generally speaking. Other versions of Popcorn Time are also currently active, but the user interface of this one and its release appear to be closely affiliated with earlier Popcorn Time projects, based on domain redirects and urls.

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US Government, Tech Industry Discussing Ways To Use Smartphone Location Data To Combat Coronavirus

Slashdot - Your Rights Online - Wt, 2020-03-17 22:40
The U.S. government is in active talks with Facebook, Google and a wide array of tech companies and health experts about how they can use location data gleaned from Americans' phones to combat the novel coronavirus, including tracking whether people are keeping one another at safe distances to stem the outbreak. From a report: Public-health experts are interested in the possibility that private-sector companies could compile the data in anonymous, aggregated form, which they could then use to map the spread of the infection, according to three people familiar with the effort, who requested anonymity because the project is in its early stages. Analyzing trends in smartphone owners' whereabouts could prove to be a powerful tool for health authorities looking to track coronavirus, which has infected more than 180,000 people globally. But it's also an approach that could leave some Americans uncomfortable, depending on how it's implemented, given the sensitivity when it comes to details about their daily whereabouts.

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