Bank ATMs And Teller Counters Need Covid-19 Scrubbing: Survey

Money laundering is a legal no-no for banks, but secret inspections at U.S. locations suggest their ATMs and teller counters could use a good scrubbing with Purell.

Despite most retailers’ near-obsessive attention to details that send a Covid-19 wellness message, America’s financial institutions are communicating relative indifference. Secret shoppers sent to bank branches saw just 7% of ATMs being cleaned. Greeters at branch doors wore masks 44% of the time, and only 19% of teller areas were cleaned between customers.

Dalbar, which audits and rates practices by financial firms, released the results of its nationwide study Friday. The company sent mystery shoppers to 500 branches in the U.S. and 200 branches in Canada, auditing 14 major bank brands during the three-week period that ended August 10.

ATMs were the biggest points of weakness in the U.S. Although 91% of Canadian banks deployed additional safety measures at ATMs to protect customers—separators between machines, signs to indicate where to wait, or hand sanitizer at the ATMs—fully half of U.S. branch ATMs had no such additional safety measures at all.

Bank of America, Chase and Citibank had the only branches where tellers wore masks 100% of the time. The other U.S. brands in the survey were Capital One, Fifth Third, PNC, SunTrust, TD Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo. Canadian banks in the survey were BMO, CIBC, RBC and Scotiabank.

U.S. bank branch tellers were seen wearing masks on average 94% of the time. The average in Canada was 80%. In both countries, about 1 out of 5 branches lacked markings or signage to reinforce social distancing at or near teller windows.

“I was a little surprised and wasn’t surprised,” Michelle Slute, vice president of research for Dalbar, told Zenger News. “It wasn’t a surprise because you’re hitting the human factor and bumping up against different cultures across the country.” Since it was running a mystery shopper study, Dalbar did not contact any of the banks in advance about the study, so it had no access to what corporate directives might have been in place.

Zenger contacted all the U.S.-based banks mentioned in the study. Of the four that responded—Bank of America, SunTrust (merged with BB&T to form Truist), US Bank and Wells Fargo—none had previously received copies of Dalbar’s data.

A statement from Truist, formed by a merger of SunTrust and BB&T, noted: “We have not seen or read the study you referenced, so we are unable to provide comments on its findings. However, … client and teammate safety are our top priorities and are at the forefront of all our decisions.”

The data that Dalbar released showed SunTrust performing about average among banks in the United States.

US-HEALTH-VIRUS-BANK
A security guard wearing mask and gloves looks into a branch of the Wells Fargo bank, amid the novel … [+] AFP via Getty Images

“While we haven’t had the opportunity to review the data and study, the well-being of our customers, colleagues and communities continues to be our top priority. We have processes and protocols in place around the use of PPE, and we encourage customers to reach out if they have concerns about their use at their local branch,” a statement from US Bank read, referring to personal protective equipment.

Dalbar’s data showed US Bank performing below average on measures at ATMs and lowest overall rankings at the teller.

Wells Fargo provided Zenger with a list of steps it has taken, including temporarily closing one-fifth of its branches, offering some services by appointment only, requiring employees to use face coverings, and employing enhanced cleaning. The bank also pointed to a study from the market research firm Ipsos, which rated it as the top financial services brand in signage and cleanliness measures.

The Ipsos rankings, also compiled from mystery-shopper reports, showed 96% of the Wells Fargo locations had signs telling customer to wear masks, versus a nationwide average of 87%. Shoppers observed surfaces being wiped down after a customer visit 32% of the time.

Dalbar noted roughly the same level of post-visit cleaning at Wells Fargo branches, compared to an overall average of 19%, but had the company tied for third place on the average of teller safety measures.

“Health and safety of our employees and clients is our top priority,” said Bank of America, responding to Zenger, and also noted that and listed steps it has taken, like requiring all its employees to wear masks, and disinfecting its branch ATMs daily.

TD Bank street decal, Stand Together by Standing Apart, Manhattan, NY
TD Bank street decal, Stand Together by Standing Apart, Manhattan, NY. (Photo by: Joan … [+] Education Images

While Dalbar found all Bank of America tellers wore masks, just under 80% of employees managing traffic flow and making first customer contact could say the same. Hand sanitizer was available at slightly more than 20% of Bank of America ATMs, and fewer than one-fifth had dividers installed between machines.

Bank of America’s rating for teller safety measures in the Dalbar survey came out on top, but was well under 80%. Other domestic banks, in order of ranking, were Citibank, Capital One, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, PNC, Fifth Third, TD, Chase, and US Bank, ranging from just over 75% to under 65%.

The survey’s results “surprised us,” said Dalbar’s Slute. “Especially at the ATMs, like with Citibank and Bank of America not having hand sanitizer [at every machine].”

“There was no clear winner overall. We were expecting a Bank of America or Citibank to have it locked and loaded all the way across,” she said of the big banks’ strategies. “If there are holes in it, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

(Edited by David Martosko and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.) Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

Zenger News

 Zenger News

Zenger is the world’s first digitally native newswire. We are restoring the public’s trust in news media by strictly prohibiting the use of anonymous sources and by verifying everything that’s verifiable in the stories we distribute. America’s newsrooms are shrinking, but Zenger is putting jobless journalists back to work, providing wire stories to news outlets with no up-front cost and sharing advertising revenue with both. Our reporters, editors, photojournalists and videographers work in more than 110 countries—and we’re always searching for new talent.

COVID-19 is also forcing new methods to be use at the ATM. Randy Mac reported on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. http://4.nbcla.com/KcMEiSX ——— Don’t miss an NBCLA video, subscribe here: https://bit.ly/2NnofFF For more, visit NBCLA.COM here: https://bit.ly/2uB6niE On Facebook: https://bit.ly/2uFU1px On Twitter: https://bit.ly/2JsBm5Y About NBCLA The West Coast flagship station of the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, serving the vast region since 1949.

NBC4 produces 43 hours each week of local news and weather, and the station features the largest award-winning investigative unit in Southern California. NBC4’s news operation has received nearly every industry award bestowed on local news, including numerous Los Angeles Emmy and Golden Mike Awards, two national and two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, and a Peabody Award. NBC4 news is delivered across the main broadcast on channel4, at http://www.nbcla.com, and through multiple interactive social media platforms 24/7. The NBC Owned Television Stations, a division of NBCUniversal, also operates COZI TV (www.cozitv.com), a national network that brings viewers some of America’s most beloved and iconic television shows and movies. #NBC#NBCLA

At Least 6 U.S. Teachers Have Died From Covid-19 Since Schools Reopened

At least six educators in five states have died after contracting the coronavirus since schools began reopening in early August. Here’s a list, which Forbes will regularly update, of all the teacher Covid-19 fatalities to date.Demetria “Demi” Bannister, 28, a third-grade teacher in Columbia, South Carolina, died this week from Covid-19 complications after returning to school on August 28 for a week of teacher workdays (she only interacted with students remotely).

AshLee DeMarinis, 34, who taught special education at a middle school in Potosi, Missouri, died Sunday after three weeks on a ventilator; she had expressed fear about in-person teaching amid the pandemic, according to her sister, and contracted Covid-19 after returning to John Evans Middle School to begin preparing for the fall semester (she had not begun teaching students in-person).

Tom Slade, 53, a history teacher at a high school in Vancleave, Mississippi, also died on Sunday due to complications from the virus, which he tested positive for on August 24 after attending a gathering outside of class hours, according to the Biloxi Sun Herald; teachers at Vancleave High School had returned to the classroom August 3, with students following closely after.

An unnamed long-time special education teacher with Des Moines Public Schools died last week from coronavirus complications after an out-of-state trip, the school district announced September 2. 

Teresa Horn, 62, a special education teacher in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, died on August 28 from a heart attack after testing positive for the virus, prompting Tahlequah Public Schools to send their students home for virtual classes (the district has since reported at least eight infections). 

Nacoma James, 42, a football coach in Oxford, Mississippi, died during the first week of August as students and teachers returned to Lafayette Middle School; James, who had been coaching students “all summer,” did not join the first week back at school, instead self-quarantining with Covid-19 symptoms before passing away.  

Americans have been divided on sending students and teachers back to school as the virus continues to spread and the death toll nears 200,000 nationwide. Many school districts have opted for a “hybrid” mix of online and in-person learning, with heightened precautions in the classroom (plexiglass barriers, mandated mask usage, strict capacity limits). Each of New York City’s 1,606 public schools are offering a “blended learning” mix of online and offline teaching, with students returning from September 21. The majority of the nation’s other largest school districts have opted to begin the academic year online only. 

Further Reading

“‘Reckless’ And ‘Reprehensible’ Frat Party Linked To Coronavirus Outbreak At UNH: Here Are The Latest College Coronavirus Updates” (Forbes)

“U.S. Needs 193 Million Tests Per Month In Schools And Nursing Homes To Contain Covid-19, Report Finds” (Forbes)

“New York State Launches Covid-19 Report Card For Schools” (Forbes)

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Jemima McEvoy

Jemima McEvoy

I’m a British-born reporter covering breaking news for Forbes.

Can You Socialize Safely During the Pandemic

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Of the many ways COVID-19 has changed American life, social distancing is among the toughest for many people to bear. Humans are social animals, hard-wired to crave touch and interaction. So it’s only natural that, as caution fatigue sets in and social-distancing guidelines in many places are extended into the indeterminate future, even well-intentioned people are looking for loopholes that allow them to reunite with loved ones.

But is there any safe way to see family or friends while following social-distancing guidelines? “There’s no magic answer to that question,” says Jason Farley, a professor and nurse epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Schools of Nursing and Medicine.

There’s always risk

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommends that people “avoid gatherings of any size outside your household, such as [in] a friend’s house, parks, restaurants, shops, or any other place.” That’s especially important for people who are sick; know or suspect they’ve been exposed to COVID-19; are in a high-risk group, like the elderly or immune-compromised; or live with someone who fits into any of these categories.

But you could get and spread coronavirus even if you don’t fall under one of those labels.

Many people who get COVID-19 develop either mild symptoms or none at all. That means you and your loved ones could be spreading the virus even if you feel fine, Farley says.

Even a negative test result only takes you so far, since diagnostic accuracy isn’t perfect and you could be exposed to the virus at any time. “There’s really no way of predicting, if you’ve been exposed and tested negative today, that you won’t test positive tomorrow,” Farley says. Testing positive for antibodies also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immune to future infections, health officials say.

Wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly and limiting trips outside all reduce your risk of catching and passing on COVID-19, but “we can’t quantify [how much lower] that lower risk is,” Farley says. There’s also no demographic that’s truly safe from COVID-19—people of all ages have gotten seriously ill and died from the virus.

Given all those risks and unknowns, “the most responsible option is to have [a social] visit virtually,” says Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist and associate professor in the Center for Healthy Communities at the University of California, Riverside. That will be the case until there’s a vaccine to confer widespread immunity, as well as better testing capacity and steady declines in deaths and cases to decrease the burden on the health care system, Brown says.

But there’s gray area

In a perfect infectious-disease-fighting model, everybody would stay home and socialize only with their cohabitants. But the realities of human existence are messier.

Flagrant social-distancing violations, like packed house parties, are unequivocally a bad idea. But there’s plenty of gray area. Is there any harm in a socially distant walk? If you live alone, can you see one friend? Is there a responsible way to move in with family?

There are also mental-health ramifications to consider. Isolation can take a serious toll on mental health, particularly for those already suffering from conditions like depression and anxiety. Unemployment, isolation and distress related to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to about 75,000 additional “deaths of despair”—those related to suicide or substance misuse—in the U.S., according to a recent report. How do you weigh that against the risk of spreading a deadly infectious disease?

To help, some experts are advocating for a harm-reduction approach to social distancing, an idea that hinges on minimizing the negative consequences of potentially risky behaviors. That would mean teaching people how to see their loved ones as safely as possible, rather than telling them not to socialize at all and hoping—against proof and human nature—that they listen.

“We have been thinking about social distancing in this all-or-nothing way,” says Julia Marcus, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School. That was appropriate when lockdowns were first announced, Marcus says, but as containment measures drag on and on, it’s impractical not to address the gray area.

“People are already making choices every day around how to navigate risk,” Marcus says. “A harm-reduction approach would…give them the tools they need to reduce risk as much as possible.”

While there’s a diversity of opinion among health professionals about how much risk is acceptable, most agree that some forms of socializing are safer than others.

Outside seems better than in

There’s still a lot experts don’t know about how COVID-19 spreads. But Dr. Kelly Michelson, director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says most research suggests you are less likely to catch or transmit the virus if you’re outside, wearing a mask and keeping your distance from others.

Certain types of outdoor interaction are also better than others, Farley says. A cookout where people are touching the same utensils or eating from the same containers is higher risk than a socially distant walk, for example.

Patricia Rieker, a medical sociologist at Boston University, adds that one-on-one meetings are safer than group gatherings. She invited one friend to her condo building’s outdoor area over the weekend, but only after wiping down their chairs and placing them 10 feet apart and finding a way for her friend to get into the common area without entering her home. They also wore masks. “It took me 45 minutes to prepare for that to happen safely,” Rieker says. “You can’t do anything in a way that I would call spontaneous.”

Trust is important

Rieker says she felt comfortable seeing her friend because she knew they both took social distancing seriously. That trust is paramount, Rieker says, because seeing somebody right now means you’re potentially exposing yourself to all of their prior brushes with the virus.

If you really trust somebody, Rieker says it’s not out of the question to explore moving in with them, as long as it’s done safely. Even though testing isn’t 100% accurate, Rieker says both parties should get tested before moving in.

Brown says both parties should shelter in place for at least two weeks before combining households. Michelson agrees, and adds that it’s important to ensure that “this surrogate family member or friend is protecting themselves in a way that’s going to be safe for you.” In other words: moving in together is not a license to let other disease-prevention practices lapse.

Sharing a bed or having close physical contact requires even more trust, and exposes you both to more risk. Writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine on May 8, a group of Boston-based physicians noted that all in-person sexual contact likely comes with some risk of spreading COVID-19, leaving health care providers with “little to offer beyond guidance not to engage in any in-person sexual activity.” Still, they acknowledged that total abstinence is not always a viable option, and noted that virtual sexual activity, or physical contact with a live-in quarantine partner, is safest.

Context matters

COVID-19 is not spreading identically in all parts of the U.S. If you have your heart set on socializing, the onus is on you to understand the specific public-health guidelines and situation in your area, Rieker says. If you live in a densely populated area where coronavirus is spreading rapidly, it may be hard or even impossible to find a way to socialize safely. It’s important to stay mindful of that—especially since social distancing is really about the common good, and making sure that as few people as possible get sick.

“Staying safe is a multi-layered issue of what you do for yourself, what you are going to hope that other people will do for themselves, and what, collectively, everybody does in the community,” Rieker says. “You are required to think about the larger good.”

Limiting social contact, as hard as it is, really is an altruistic move. Even if you, personally, accept the risk of seeing another person, you need to consider how your actions could affect public health and burdens on the health care system. That sort of thinking should be extra motivation for taking as few risks as possible, and minimizing the risks that you do take. Doing so will help bring the coronavirus pandemic to its end.

“In the short term, everyone is going to hurt,” Brown says. “But in the long term, the problems of the pandemic will get better.”

By Jamie Ducharme

Source: https://time.com

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bev1

Mission Health psychiatrists, Dr. Micah Krempasky and Dr. Richard Zenn, offer expert advice on dealing with the stress of social distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is a drag on human performance. It can cause fatigue and sap endurance among athletes, according to a 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Physiology. Even mild dehydration can interfere with a person’s mood or ability to concentrate.

Water is cheap and healthy. And drinking H2O is an effective way for most people to stay hydrated. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adult women and men drink at least 91 and 125 ounces of water a day, respectively. (For context, one gallon is 128 fluid ounces.) But pounding large quantities of water morning, noon and night may not be the best or most efficient way to meet the body’s hydration requirements.

“If you’re drinking water and then, within two hours, your urine output is really high and [your urine] is clear, that means the water is not staying in well,” says David Nieman, a professor of public health at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus. Nieman says plain water has a tendency to slip right through the human digestive system when not accompanied by food or nutrients. This is especially true when people drink large volumes of water on an empty stomach. “There’s no virtue to that kind of consumption,” he says.

In fact, clear urine is a sign of “overhydration,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. And some of the latest research supports Nieman’s claim that guzzling lots of water is not the best way to stay hydrated.

For a 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the short-term hydration effects of more than a dozen different beverages—everything from plain water and sports drinks to milk, tea, and beer, to a specially formulated “rehydration solution.” Based on urine analyses collected from the study volunteers, the researchers concluded that several drinks—including milk, tea, and orange juice, but not sports drinks—were more hydrating than plain water. (Lager was a little less hydrating than water, but a little better than coffee.)

Of course, no one’s suggesting that people dump water in favor of milk and OJ. Water is still hydrating. So are sports drinks, beer, and even coffee, to some extent. But the authors of the 2015 study wrote that there are several “elements of a beverage” that affect how much H2O the body retains. These include a drink’s nutrient content, as well as the presence of “diuretic agents,” which increase the amount of urine a person produces. Ingesting water along with amino acids, fats and minerals seems to help the body take up and retain more H2O—and therefore maintain better levels of hydration—which is especially important following exercise and periods of heavy perspiration.

“People who are drinking bottles and bottles of water in between meals and with no food, they’re probably just peeing most of that out,” Nieman says. Also, the popular idea that constant and heavy water consumption “flushes” the body of toxins or unwanted material is a half-truth. While urine does transport chemical byproducts and waste out of the body, drinking lots of water on an empty stomach doesn’t improve this cleansing process, he says.

In some rare cases, excessive water consumption can even be harmful. “In athletes or people who are exercising for hours, if they’re only drinking water, they can throw out too much sodium in their urine, which leads to an imbalance in the body’s sodium levels,” explains Nieman, who has spent a chunk of his career investigating exercise-related hydration. Doctors call this imbalance “hyponatremia,” and in some cases it can be deadly. In this scenario, sports drinks and other beverages that contain nutrients and sodium are safer than plain water.

While hyponatremia and excessive water consumption aren’t big concerns for non-athletes, there are better ways to keep the body and brain hydrated than to pound water all day long. Sipping water (or any other beverage) a little bit at a time prevents the kidneys from being “overloaded,” and so helps the body retain more H2O, Nieman says.

Drinking water before or during a meal or snack is another good way to hydrate. “Drinking water with amino acids or fats or vitamins or minerals helps the body take up more of the water, which is why beverages like milk and fruit juice tend to look pretty good in these hydration studies,” he says. Some of his own research has found that eating a banana is better than drinking a sports beverage when it comes to post-exercise recovery. And he says eating almost any piece of fruit along with some water is going to aid the body’s ability to take up that H2O and rehydrate. (These hydration rules apply to athletes as well, he says.)

The take-home message isn’t that people should drink less water, nor that they should swap out water for other beverages. But for those hoping to stay optimally hydrated, a slow-and-steady approach to water consumption and coupling water with a little food is a more effective method than knocking back full glasses of H2O between meals. “Water is good for you, but you can drown in it too,” Nieman says.

By Markham Heid

Source: Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated

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Make an appointment with David Coun, MD: http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/da… Find a doctor: http://www.mountsinai.org/fad David Coun, MD is a board-certified primary care doctor at Mount Sinai Doctors, seeing patients Monday through Friday in Brooklyn Heights. Trained in Newark and New York City, he is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. After majoring in Spanish Literature at Cornell, he was awarded his medical degree from Rutgers Medical School and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at NY Medical College-St. Vincent’s Medical Center. Prior to joining Mount Sinai Doctors, Dr. Coun worked for NYC Health and Hospitals for over 15 years. During that time, he served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, where he was a regular lecturer, seminar leader, and clinical educator for both students and resident physicians. Dr. Coun has lectured regularly on various topics, including smoking cessation, prostatic conditions, EKG review, and physician communication skills. He has a particular interest in prevention, as well as, the intersection between mental health and chronic medical conditions. Dr. Coun is fluent in Spanish. He is also the Chief of Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Doctors, 300 Cadman Plaza West. Mount Sinai Doctors, located at 300 Cadman Plaza West, is a two-floor multispecialty practice with a walk-in urgent care center and more than 35 specialties, including Adolescent Medicine, Allergy, Cardiology, Dermatology, Diabetes Education, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, General Surgery, Infectious Disease, Maternal & Fetal Medicine, Nephrology, OBGYN, Ophthalmology, Optometry & Optical Shop, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Pulmonology, Radiology, Rheumatology, Travel Medicine, Urology, and Vascular Surgery. The practice is located at 300 Cadman Plaza West, on the 17th and 18th floors, in Brooklyn Heights. You can make appointments online at http://www.mountsinai.org/bh or via ZocDoc at http://bit.ly/29LNAIG

Forget China’s ‘Excessive’ Coronavirus Surveillance—This Is America’s Surprising Alternative

Here’s an interesting twist. China has spent years building a vast surveillance state to digitally track its population, a system that has come to the fore in its attempts to monitor and control the spread of coronavirus. For years we have decried this “big brother” monitoring, and yet it turns out that we have a vast surveillance dataset of our own, just waiting for the government to tap into.

Last week, I reported on viral coronavirus maps that use marketing databases to show the movements of Americans as they congregate and disperse, illustrative of the potential spread of coronavirus infections. The granularity of the data shocked many—although the subject matter distracted most from the underlying issue. The data is unique to individuals but claims anonymity—however, last year the New York Times exposed just how easily that veil is broken.

It is therefore a surprise that the U.S. government—through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has elected to use this marketing dataset rather than mobile operator data to track coronavirus. “Officials across the U.S. are using location data from millions of cellphones,” the Wall Street Journal reported on March 28, “to better understand the movements of Americans during the pandemic.” The newspaper says the plan is “to create a portal for federal, state and local officials that contains geolocation data in what could be as many as 500 cities across the U.S.”

When coronavirus first hit China, the country repurposed its surveillance state into a contact tracing and quarantine enforcement machine. The infrastructure was in place. Facial and license plate recognition, contact tracing and phone tracking, proximity reports from public transportation, apps to determine quarantine status and freedom of movement, and social media to inform on rule-breakers. Described as “excessive coronavirus public monitoring,” it is expanding China’s already pervasive use of biometric people tracking technologies.

In the West we have no such biometric-powered surveillance state, whatever campaign groups might say. There is the rule of law, warranted tracking, even campaigns to remove facial recognition from law enforcement. Meanwhile, we all carry smartphones loaded with apps that we give permission to track us, wherever we go and whenever we go there, down to a frightening level of detail.

Smartphone tracking is becoming the front-end for coronavirus population tracking—be that individuals confined to their homes, curfews, contact tracing or aggregated analysis on the impact of social distancing. A smartphone is a proxy for a person. Track the phones and you track the people. Each device can be uniquely tied to its owner, whether in Beijing or Boston, Shanghai or Seattle.

In the U.K. and mainland Europe, governments and the European Union have pulled data from the mobile network operators themselves to track millions of citizens, aggregated and anonymized, monitoring adherence with social distancing and travel restrictions. There was even talk that the GSMA might develop a centralised data program across 700 operators to track users cross-border.

Mobile networks hold significant data on customers. Location pings, call and messaging metadata, obviously the identities behind the numbers and whatever their CRM systems store. This data has its limitations. It is also heavily regulated, protected from prying eyes except under legally warranted circumstances.

There is however an even larger dataset that has no such regulatory limitations. It contains information on all of us—we actually give it permission to collect our locations, our browsing activities, where we go, when, how often. The information can be mined to infer where we work and live, what we like to do and with who. It is the closest we have to a surveillance state—and it’s now everywhere.

The database is fuelled by the apps on our smartphones—apps we give permission to access data they do not need to execute their own functions. And that data can be sold to create a revenue stream for its operators. Last year, one project set out to show just how out of hand this has become. A security researcher tested 937 Android flashlight apps—the most innocuous apps imaginable, of which 180 requested permission to access our contacts and 131 our precise locations.

This marketing data source, which gathers information on all of us, all of the time, is quite the surveillance feat. If any western government set out its intention to build such a platform there would be an extraordinary public backlash. And yet the data is there and can be accessed commercially for just the payment of a fee.

Once the pandemic is behind us, the memory of those maps tracking us coast to coast will remain. And as we look to the east, to its vast government surveillance ecosystem, perhaps we will recall the equivalent we live with ourselves. The fact is that the necessity of the coronavirus pandemic has pushed government invention into new and surprising areas. And from a surveillance stance, one of the most powerful ways imaginable has been there all the time.

It is clear that over the coming weeks we will be asked to further trade personal privacy for public safety. Those datasets can be mined for ever more powerful information—the same contact tracing and quarantine breaches China monitors. According to the WSJ, the mobile ad data “can reveal general levels of compliance with stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders—and help measure the pandemic’s economic impact by revealing the drop-off in retail customers at stores, decreases in automobile miles driven and other economic metrics.”

Not bad for a ready-made, off-the-shelf alternative.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I am the Founder/CEO of Digital Barriers—developing advanced surveillance solutions for defence, national security and counter-terrorism. I write about the intersection of geopolitics and cybersecurity, as well as breaking security and surveillance stories. Contact me at zakd@me.com.

Source: Forget China’s ‘Excessive’ Coronavirus Surveillance—This Is America’s Surprising Alternative

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