FlyTitle: The pandemic and the state

Surveillance through apps and data networks can do much to keep covid-19 at bay, but at what cost?

通过应用和数据网络监控可以有效阻止新冠肺炎的传播,但代价几何?【新冠报道】

经济学人双语版-创造新冠全景监控 Creating the coronopticon

HAVING BEEN quarantined at his parents’ house in the Hebei province in northern China for a month, Elvis Liu arrived back home in Hong Kong on February 23rd. Border officials told him to add their office’s number to his WhatsApp contacts and to fix the app’s location-sharing setting to “always on”, which would let them see where his phone was at all times. They then told him to get home within two hours, close the door and stay there for two weeks.

埃尔维斯·刘(Elvis Liu)在中国北方省份河北的父母家中隔离了一个月后,2月23日回到了香港的家。边检人员让他把边检办公室的号码添加到WhatsApp联系人中,并将该应用的位置共享设置为“始终开启”,这样他们就可以随时查看他手机所在的位置。然后,他们让他在两个小时内回家,关上门,居家隔离两周。

His next fortnight was punctuated, every eight hours, with the need to reactivate that always-on location sharing; Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, requires such affirmation so people do not just default to being tracked. Compared with his first lockdown—in a spacious apartment, with family and dogs for company—the ten-square-metre flat with two tiny courtyard-facing windows was grim. When he emerged, on March 8th, he immediately donned mask, goggles and gloves and took a ferry to the island of Lamma where he galloped down lush forest trails for 30km, high on freedom, injuring his knees in the process. He still has trouble sleeping. But he is fit to work, and Hong Kong is content that he poses no risk to the health of his fellow citizens.

接下来的两周里,每隔八个小时他就要把位置信息分享功能重新设定为“始终开启”——WhatsApp的母公司Facebook要求做出这样的确认,以免人们只是默认接受被追踪状态。与他之前的隔离环境相比(宽敞的公寓,有家人和狗陪伴),这个面积10平方米、仅有两个面向内庭的小窗户的公寓让人很压抑。3月8日结束隔离的那天,他立即戴上口罩、护目镜和手套,乘渡轮去了南丫岛,沿着草木茂盛的林中小径飞奔了30公里。自由的感觉让他兴奋不已,过程中还伤了膝盖。他现在还是有些睡不好。但他的健康状况可以工作。他对其他市民的健康没有任何威胁,这让香港满意。

Mainland China and South Korea have reduced the number of reported new covid-19 cases down to around 100 a day or less; Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan never saw steep rises in the first place (see chart 1). Now they all face the same challenge: how to limit the all-but-inevitable rise in cases that will follow when they relax current controls, a rise which can already be seen in some places. To meet that challenge they are all turning to information technology.

中国大陆和韩国报告的新增新冠肺炎病例已减少到每天约100例或更少。香港、新加坡和台湾从一开始就未出现过病例数急剧上升的情况(见图表1)。现在它们都面临着同样的挑战:当它们放宽当前的防控措施后,该如何控制接下来几乎不可避免的病例数上升,这种情况在某些地方已经出现。为应对这一挑战,它们都开始诉诸于信息技术。

经济学人双语版-创造新冠全景监控 Creating the coronopticon

Their efforts, like others elsewhere, are experimental. They risk failure; they also risk adverse side-effects, most obviously on civil liberties. But around 2.5bn people have now been put on some sort of lockdown during the pandemic (see chart 2). Only a fraction of them have been or will be infected, and thus become immune. The rest, when they emerge, will need watching—for their own sakes, and for the sakes of those around them.

和其他地方一样,它们的努力是试验性的,有可能失败,也有可能出现不良副作用,最明显的就是限制公民自由。但在这场大流行病期间,全球已有约25亿人受到某种形式的隔离(见图表2)。他们中只有一小部分已经或将被感染,并因此产生免疫力。其他人结束隔离后,为己为人都需要继续被监视。

经济学人双语版-创造新冠全景监控 Creating the coronopticon

The tools in use fall into three categories. The first is documentation: using technology to say where people are, where they have been or what their disease status is. The second is modelling: gathering data which help explain how the disease spreads. The third is contact tracing: identifying people who have had contact with others known to be infected.

它们使用的工具分为三类。首先是信息记录:利用技术来了解人们当前的位置、此前出行的轨迹,或当前是否感染等健康状况。第二类是建模:收集有助于解释疾病传播方式的数据。第三是追踪接触者:识别与已知感染者接触过的人。

When it comes to documentation, most of the action is in quarantine: replacing phone calls and home visits with virtual checking-up. While Hong Kong uses WhatsApp, South Korea has a customised app that sounds an alarm and alerts officials if people stray; as of March 21st 42% of the 10,600 people under quarantine there were using the app. Taiwan uses a different approach, tracking quarantined people’s phones using data from cell-phone masts. If it detects someone out of bounds, it texts them and alerts the authorities. Leaving quarantine without your phone can incur a fine; in South Korea fines for breaking quarantine are hefty, and will soon be accompanied by the threat of prison.

先看信息记录,这主要是针对隔离状态,用虚拟的检查替代电话和上门拜访。香港用的是WhatsApp,韩国有一个定制的应用,如果隔离中的人擅自行动就会发出警报,提醒官员。截至3月21日,韩国10,600被隔离的人中有42%使用了这款应用。台湾采用了另一种方法,用手机基站的数据来追踪被隔离人员的手机。如果检测到有人出了隔离区,就会向他们发送短信并提示相关部门。不带手机出隔离区可能会被罚款:在韩国,违反隔离措施会被处以高额罚款,不久后可能还会被处以监禁。

Phones need not just send data back to the government; they can also pass data on to third parties. China’s Health Check app, developed by provincial governments and run through portals in the ubiquitous payment apps Alipay and WeChat, takes self-reported data about places visited and symptoms to generate an identifying QR code that is displayed in green, orange or red, corresponding to free movement, seven-day and 14-day quarantines. It is not clear how accurate the system is, but Alipay says people in more than 200 cities are now using their Health Check status to move more freely.

手机不仅可以把数据传输给政府,还可以传给第三方。中国各省政府开发出了健康码,通过广泛使用的支付应用支付宝和微信上的入口运行,录得使用者自行报告的到访地点和症状数据,生成绿色、橙色或红色的识别二维码,分别对应可自由行动、需隔离七天和隔离14天三种状态。这个系统的准确性如何尚不清楚,但支付宝称,现在有200多个城市的人们使用健康码更自由地出行。

Cellular biology

蜂窝生物学

A group of academics, developers and public-health officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and elsewhere are building a similar WHO MyHealth app. When reliable tests for immunity—whether gained through infection or, one day, vaccination—become available, such documentation apps may be used to communicate their results in some places, too.

一批学者和开发人员正与来自世卫组织及其他地方的公共卫生官员一道,开发一个类似的应用“世卫组织健康助手”(WHO MyHealth)。等到可以开展可靠的免疫测试的时候(无论是通过感染还是有朝一日通过疫苗获得免疫),这类信息记录应用或许还可以在一些地方用于告知相关结果。

When it comes to helping with modelling and situational awareness, there is a wealth of data. Phone companies know roughly where all their mobile customers are from what cell their phones are using. And because advertisers will pay to tailor ads, internet companies such as Bytedance, Facebook, Google and Tencent gather scads of data about what their billions of users are doing where. Modellers can use data from both kinds of company to fine-tune predictions of the spread of disease.

在协助建模和态势感知方面,数据十分丰富。手机运营商可以通过手机使用的蜂窝网络大致了解所有移动用户的位置。而由于广告主会花钱专门定制广告,因此字节跳动、Facebook、谷歌和腾讯等互联网公司收集了数十亿用户在哪里做什么的海量数据。建模人员可以利用电信公司和互联网公司的数据来调整对疾病传播的预测。

Governments can use the same data to check how their policies are performing at a district or city level. In Germany Deutsche Telekom has provided data to the Robert Koch Institute, the government’s public-health agency, in an aggregated form which does not identify individuals. The British government is in talks with cell-phone carriers about similar data access. It could simply require it: the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 gives it the power to take whatever data it wishes from any company within its jurisdiction in order to fight the virus, and to do so in secret. In practice, negotiation and openness make more sense. The belief that personal data are being passed to the government in secret could erode exactly the sort of trust on which an “all in it together” fight, as called for by Boris Johnson, the prime minister, depends.

政府也可以利用这些数据来检查其政策在区或市一级的执行情况。在德国,德国电信以汇总的形式(无法识别个人身份)向政府公共卫生机构罗伯特·科赫研究所(Robert Koch Institute)提供了数据。英国政府正在与手机运营商就类似的数据访问权限展开谈判。它其实可以直接要求运营商提供数据:2016年的《调查权力法》(Investigatory Powers Act)赋予了英国政府这样的权力,令它可以从管辖范围内的任何公司获取想要的任何数据以对抗病毒,而且可以秘密进行。而在实践中,谈判和公开的做法更好。如果公众认为个人数据被秘密交给了政府,可能会削弱他们对政府的信任,而这种信任正是首相约翰逊号召的“全民抗疫”的基础。

Google, which may well have more information about where people are than any other company around, says that it is exploring ways in which it could help modellers and governments with aggregated data. One example could be helping health authorities determine the impact of social distancing using the sort of data that allow Google Maps to tell users about how congested streets or museums are.

谷歌掌握的用户位置信息可能比其他任何公司都多,它表示正在探索利用汇总数据帮助建模人员和政府的方法。一种可能性是拿谷歌地图用来告知用户街道或博物馆拥挤状况的那类数据,去帮助卫生部门确定社交隔离的效果。

Computational social scientists, who use data from digital systems to study human behaviour, are mulling over other ways that this kind of data might inform and improve epidemiological models. One problem with current models, says Sune Lehmann of the University of Copenhagen, is that they assume that people mix and interact in a uniform manner; that passing a friend and a stranger in the street is exactly the same sort of interaction. His research group has written machine-learning software which can sift through historical records from mobile-phone providers to diagnose and explore how relationships modulate such interactions. Applied to current data this understanding might show that interactions between friends in coffee shops are not that important for the spread of disease, but that the delivery of packages is—or vice versa. During an extended pandemic, such information could, if reliable, be a great help to policymakers trying to keep bits of the economy running.

计算社会学家利用数字系统产生的数据研究人类行为,他们也在探索方法来利用这类数据搭建和改进流行病学模型。哥本哈根大学的苏尼·莱曼(Sune Lehmann)说,当前的模型存在一个问题,它们假设人们接触和互动的方式是统一的,在街上碰到朋友和陌生人时发生的互动是完全相同的。他的研究小组编写了机器学习软件,可以梳理手机运营商的历史记录,以判断并探索不同的人际关系对互动方式的影响。将这种新洞见添加到当前的数据上,可能会揭示朋友在咖啡店里的互动对疾病的传播没那么重要,而送快递的影响却可能很大,或者正相反。在持续较久的大流行病期间,此类信息(如果可靠)可能会对试图保持经济部分运转的政策制定者有极大的帮助。

The use of data becomes most fraught when it moves beyond modelling and informing policy to the direct tracking of individuals in order to see from whom they got the disease. Such contact-tracing can be an important public-health tool. It also has a resemblance to modern counter-terrorism tactics. “The technology to track and trace already exists and is being used by governments all around the world,” says Mike Bracken, a partner at Public Digital, a consultancy, and former boss of the British government’s digital services. To what extent those capabilities are now part of the fight against covid-19, no one will say.

当数据的使用超出建模和辅助决策的范围,而用于直接追踪个人以查明传染源时,就变得最叫人头痛。接触者追踪可以是重要的公共卫生工具,与现代反恐策略也有相似之处。英国政府数字服务的前负责人、咨询公司Public Digital的合伙人麦克·布拉肯(Mike Bracken)说:“追踪技术已经存在,并且正为全世界的政府所使用。”现在,这些技术正在多大程度上应用于对抗新冠肺炎,没人会清楚说明。

One reason governments keep secret the procedures and powers by which they seize and make use of data is a concern that informed enemies would thus evade them. When it comes to public health, this is unconvincing. Complex as it is by the standards of RNA-based viruses, SARS-CoV-2 is not going to change its behaviour because of what the spooks are doing. But their adversaries are not the only people that spooks like to keep in the dark. Citizens concerned with civil liberties fit the bill, too. This is why Mr Bracken expects governments not to be forthcoming about any use they are making of such capabilities in the fight against covid-19: to be frank would, he says, “expose the power that governments have very quickly”.

政府要对获取和利用数据的程序和权力保密,原因之一是担心敌方在知情后会逃避追踪。在公共卫生领域,这个理由难以令人信服。尽管在RNA病毒中新冠病毒是非常复杂的一种,但它并不会因为情报机关的行动而改变行为。但是,情报机关并不只想对敌方保密,也想对关心公民自由的公民保密。所以,布拉肯估计政府不会乐于透露任何它们在抗击新冠病毒时运用这类能力的情况——如果坦诚相告,“会很快暴露政府拥有的权力”,他说。

Apparently unworried about doing so, on March 16th Israel’s government authorised Shin Bet, the internal security service, and the police to use their technical know-how to track and access the mobile phones of those who have been infected. Israel’s High Court initially limited the powers; after parliamentary oversight was established, though, they were good to go.

以色列政府看样子对运用这种技术并不担心,它在3月16日授权国内安全部门辛贝特(Shin Bet)和警察部门利用自身技术知识来追踪并访问被感染者的手机。最初以色列高等法院限制了这项权力,但确立了议会监督机制之后,新规就付诸实施了。

South Korea, too, is using digital systems to ease the load on its human contact tracers. At the beginning of the outbreak the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ran their requests for location histories through the police, who used their channels to data controllers to retrieve the required information. But the KCDC says that system was too slow, and it has now automated the request process, allowing contract tracers to pull data in automatically through a “smart city” dashboard. This data-request system was put into operation on March 16th. Korean news reports say that the automation has reduced contact-tracing time from 24 hours to ten minutes.

韩国也在利用数字系统减轻追踪接触者的工作量。疫情爆发初期,韩国疾控中心(KCDC)向警察部门发出访问定位记录的请求,后者利用自己的渠道,通过掌握数据的机构获取所需的这类信息。但KCDC表示这样的系统太慢,现已将请求流程自动化,让追踪接触者的工作人员通过“智慧城市”数据可视化仪表板自动提取数据。该数据请求系统于3月16日投用。韩国新闻报道称,自动化把追踪接触者所需的时间从24小时缩短到了10分钟。

It might also be possible to do something similar from the bottom up, thus limiting government snooping. Start with an app that sends coherent health and travel data to a central registry, as China’s Health Check purports to. Then add sufficiently smart and powerful number-crunching for the system to be able to find all the places where two people’s histories cross. When someone gets sick, the system can then alert all the other users whose paths that user crossed. Because the infrastructure would be separate from that of the spooks, it could be much more open, scrutable and trustworthy.

或许也可以自下而上地做到类似的事情,从而减少政府的窥探。首先,可以利用某个应用把清楚连贯的健康和出行数据发送到一个登记中心,中国的健康码据称就是这样。然后加上足够智能和强大的数据分析功能,使系统能够找出两个人的定位记录重叠的所有地点。当某个人染病时,系统就可以向与这个人有交集的其他所有用户发出警报。这种系统的基础设施与情报机关的分离,所以可能更开放、易读也可信赖得多。

经济学人双语版-创造新冠全景监控 Creating the coronopticon

Such approaches, though, face serious problems. The number of people an infectious person actually infects will almost always be much smaller than the number they encounter. Sean McDonald, an expert on public health and digital governance, says a system which alerted all the people that an infected person had been near over the past week could lead to a demand for tests that would entirely overwhelm the capacity available in most countries. If the relative risk of, say, walking past someone on the street and drinking from the same water fountain an hour apart were known, and if the data picked up such niceties, things might be different. But they are not.

然而这类方法也面临严重的问题。一名感染者实际能感染的人数几乎总是比他遇到的人少得多。公共卫生和数字治理专家肖恩·麦克唐纳(Sean McDonald)表示,如果系统向过去一周内在感染者附近出现过的所有人发出警报,可能会导致对检测的需求激增,完全超出大多数国家或地区的检测能力。如果能知道在大街上与某人擦肩而过,或与某人相隔一小时在同一个喷泉式饮水器喝过水的相对风险,并且如果数据能发现这样的细节,情况可能会有所不同。但事实并非如此。

An alternative to too much testing would be not enough. Annie Sparrow, an epidemiologist who advises Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, points out that modellers without field experience tend to misunderstand the psychology of testing. The stigma associated with a disease, she says, is likely to outweigh the rational pull of keeping oneself and one’s family safe. And both Dr Sparrow and Mr McDonald point out that any solution which relies on smartphones and internet access inherently ignores the half of the planet which does not have internet access. Mr McDonald says he would prefer to see the data wizards apply themselves to easier problems such as optimising the supply chains for medical goods like masks and ventilators.

找到替代大量检测的方案还不够。世卫组织总干事谭德塞的顾问、流行病学家安妮·斯派洛(Annie Sparrow)指出,没有实战经验的建模人员往往会误解检测带来的心理影响。她说,因疾病而来的污名很可能压倒保持自己和家人安全的理性思考。斯派洛和马克唐纳都指出,任何依赖智能手机和互联网接入的解决方案都首先忽略了地球上还有一半人没有接入互联网。麦克唐纳说,他希望数据专家专心去解决更容易解决的问题,例如优化口罩和呼吸机等医疗产品的供应链。

Big brother is contact-tracing you

老大哥正在追踪你的接触者

Google says that, having heard epidemiologists make such points, it is not planning to use the location data it collects to do contact tracing. The data-collection mechanisms built into products like Android or Google Maps are “not designed to provide robust or high-confidence records for medical purposes and the data cannot be adapted to this goal”, the company says. Facebook says something similar. Both companies can be assumed to think that talking explicitly about how well they might be able to do such things would raise concerns about privacy.

谷歌表示,在听取了流行病学家的这类观点后,它不打算将收集到的位置数据用于追踪接触者。谷歌认为,安卓系统或谷歌地图之类产品中的数据收集机制的“设计初衷并非是为医疗用途提供可靠或高可信度的记录,而且也不能为满足这一用途而调整数据”。Facebook也表达了相似的观点。估计两家公司都认为明确谈论自己在这方面能做得多好可能会引发对隐私的担忧。

What Google and Facebook will not do, though, the government of Singapore is quite up for. Its Government Technology Agency and health ministry have designed an app which can retrospectively identify close-ish contacts of people who come down with covid-19.

不过,谷歌和Facebook不愿意做的事情,新加坡政府倒是不介意。它的政府科技局(Government Technology Agency)和卫生部设计了一个应用,可以回溯识别新冠肺炎感染者的密切接触者。

经济学人双语版-创造新冠全景监控 Creating the coronopticon

When two users of this new app, called TraceTogether, are within two metres of each other their phones get in touch via Bluetooth. If the propinquity lasts for 30 minutes both phones record the encounter in an encrypted memory cache. When someone with the app is diagnosed with the virus, or identified as part of a cluster, the health ministry instructs them to empty their cache to the contact-tracers, who decrypt it and inform the other party. It is especially useful for contacts between people who do not know each other, such as fellow travellers on a bus, or theatre-goers.

这款新应用名为TraceTogether。当两个用户相距不到两米时,他们的手机就会通过蓝牙建立联系。如果近距离接触持续30分钟,两部手机便都会在加密的内存缓存中记录这次接触。如果有使用该应用的人被确诊感染病毒或被识别为有接触史,卫生部会指示他们提供缓存中的接触者数据,并根据解密后的数据通知接触的另一方。对于曾同乘公交车或去了同一家剧院等彼此不相识的接触者而言,这款应用特别有用。

The app’s developers have tried to assuage concerns about privacy and security. Downloading it is not compulsory. Phone numbers are stored on a secure server, and are not revealed to other users. Geolocation data are not collected (though Google’s rules governing apps that use Bluetooth mean that they will be stored on Android phones running the app). They are planning to publish the app’s source code and make it free to reuse, so that others may capitalise on their work.

该应用的开发人员已在努力缓解公众对隐私和安全性的担忧。应用下载是非强制的。电话号码存储在安全的服务器上,不会透露给其他用户。地理位置数据不会被收集(不过根据谷歌对使用蓝牙的应用的规定,这些数据将存储在运行该应用的安卓手机上)。开发人员计划发布该应用的源代码,让它可以被免费重新使用,这样其他人也可以利用他们的成果。

Singaporeans trust their government. Since TraceTogether was released on March 20th it has been downloaded by 735,000 people, or 13% of the population, according to government data. Several Singaporeans your correspondent spoke to one overcast day in the business district were unaware that they could be prosecuted for refusing to hand over their data to the health ministry. But they had no intention of frustrating the authorities. “I’d rather be responsible than irresponsible,” said one trader.

新加坡人信任政府。政府数据显示,自TraceTogether于3月20日发布以来,已有73.5万人(占新加坡人口的13%)下载。一个阴沉的日子里,本刊记者在中央商务区采访了几名新加坡人,他们并不知道到拒绝把自己的数据交给卫生部门可能会被起诉。但是他们无意阻挠政府。“我更愿意负起责任,而不是逃避责任。”一名交易员说。

In an attempt to get past the uproar about the security services tracking the infected, Israel’s Health Ministry has launched a similar app that allows people choosing to use it to see if they have come into contact with other users who subsequently took ill. The government says that the app, which uses open-source software, does not share data with the authorities. The WHO MyHealth app, also open-source, might in time take on a similar contact-tracing function.

为了走出因国家安全机构追踪感染者引发的纷争,以色列卫生部推出了一个类似的应用,让人们可以选择使用该应用来查看自己是否曾与染病的其他用户有过接触。政府表示,该应用使用开源软件,不与政府共享数据。世卫组织的应用MyHealth也是开源的,未来可能会加上类似的接触者追踪功能。

This patchwork of global systems presents its own challenge: how to make them talk to each other so that they can stimulate a global response to the disease, not just one that operates at a national or city level. Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, who studies computational privacy at Imperial College, in London, says that governments should come together to agree on common protocols for handling covid-19 data, making it easier to pool their resources. Compared with finding ventilators and protecting health-care workers, though, this is pretty low down the list of anyone’s must-dos.

全球这些零零散散的系统本身也带来了一个挑战:如何彼此沟通,以促进针对疫情的全球响应,而不仅仅是不同国家或城市各自为政。在伦敦帝国理工学院研究计算隐私的伊夫-亚历山大·德蒙乔伊(Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye)认为,各国政府应该团结一致,共同商定使用新冠肺炎数据的通用协议,以更方便地集结资源。不过,与寻找呼吸机和保护医护人员相比,这在各国的要务清单上排得很靠后。

And there’s the rub. Covid-19 demands an array of drastic, immediate responses. It also requires thinking that looks beyond the next two weeks. The network of computers built for entertainment, convenience, connection and security is helping in all sorts of quotidian ways, from video-conferencing to team-working to gaming for rest and recuperation. But it also provides a network of sensors that can co-ordinate the responses of both individuals and whole populations to a degree unimaginable in any previous pandemic. Countries are learning how to make use of that panopticon’s power in a pell-mell, piecemeal way. The systems that they lash together may last a long time. It would be best to keep an eye on them.■

这正是障碍所在。抗击新冠肺炎需要一系列快速激进的响应,还需要思考两周以后的举措。为娱乐、便利、连接和安全而构建的计算机网络在各种司空见惯的方面提供了帮助,如视频会议、协同工作,乃至放松解闷的游戏。但它还提供了一个传感器网络,可以协调个人和整体人口的响应,程度之高是在以往任何一次大流行病期间都无法想象的。各国正在仓促而零散地学习利用这种全景监控的力量。它们手忙脚乱赶出来的系统可能会延续很长时间。最好留个心。