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05/21/2020
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States are signing up for Apple-Google contact tracing

Three state governments — Alabama, North Dakota and South Carolina — said yesterday they'd be among the first to incorporate a new COVID-19 contact tracing API developed jointly by Apple and Google into apps tracking the spread of the coronavirus. The rival tech giants developed a platform that uses Bluetooth to alert iPhone and Android device users if they have come into close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The companies are not making apps themselves; rather public health agencies will use the API to build their own software. Still concerns about privacy and compatibility between different states' apps remain. "Different states are going to have to address the different standards and safeguards," said Neema Singh Guliani, an American Civil Liberties Union senior counsel. Benjamin Freed reports.


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Florida governor targets fired GIS manager

Rebekah Jones, the Florida Department of Health geographic information systems manager who on Monday said she’s being fired for refusing to post data to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard that would “drum up support” for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen the economy, is not a real data scientist, according to the governor. “She’s not a data scientist. She’s somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication and geography,” DeSantis said yesterday. The governor’s comments are a deviation from his stance earlier in the week when he told reporters Jones’ removal from the dashboard project was a “nonissue” and said she was just “tired and needed a break.” Now she’s being fired, and having her personal history be criticized by the governor and his allies. Colin Wood has more.


States' rushed IT upgrades spark data leaks, transparency concerns

As states continue rushing upgrades to their legacy IT systems in response to the coronavirus pandemic, unsupervised spending, data leaks and other technical hiccups are occurring with increasing regularity. Officials in both Illinois and Arkansas announced last weekend that their unemployment systems had exposed users’ personal information to the internet. Meanwhile, the race to rebuild and expand unemployment benefit systems has meant that applications are going live before IT workers have had time to work out all their bugs. Colin has more.


Pennsylvania launches broadband map to prepare ISPs for federal auction

A new interactive broadband coverage map published on Tuesday by Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is helping internet service providers determine how much they’ll have to spend to provide service to the least connected parts of the state. The state’s ISPs will soon be eligible to receive federal money in exchange for expanding their coverage into underserved census blocks thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which will hold the first auction of $20.4 billion in subsidies in October. In addition to labeling which areas of the state where ISPs will be eligible for the federal funding, the Penn State shows the location of transmission lines, substations and other pieces of broadband infrastructure. Ryan Johnston reports.


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