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The Italian Covid contact-tracing app is now developed in open source (github.com)
443 points by giovannibajo1 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 147 comments



This shows the application and gives an overview of how the product works for the citizen: https://github.com/immuni-app/immuni-documentation/blob/mast...

This the main technical documentation document: https://github.com/immuni-app/immuni-documentation/blob/mast...

All the documentation is here: https://github.com/immuni-app/immuni-documentation


I have looked a bit at the documentation (not the code yet) and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised.

They seem to be doing this right, including an attention to the reproducibility of the builds, which IMO is of utter importance in such a sensitive app:

https://github.com/immuni-app/immuni-documentation/blob/mast...

(long story short: Android builds are substantially reproducible, iOS are not because there doesn't seem to be a way to achieve that. They are doing the best they can.)


Bending Spoons are top notch. Super glad they're the ones handling this


> To implement its contact tracing functionality, Immuni leverages the Apple and Google Exposure Notification framework (see Apple’s documentation [1] and Google’s documentation [2]).

[1] https://www.apple.com/covid19/contacttracing

[2] https://www.google.com/covid19/exposurenotifications/


That last link seems like maybe the most informative place to start, so we've changed the link above to that from https://github.com/immuni-app.


Summary of all European (EU+) apps initiatives: https://github.com/ct-report/summary


This is a great resource. I’ve also started collecting information on all contact tracing apps being released worldwide. This is at https://cov19tech.org - to share as an open resource. The source code for the site is on GitHub and the content is all CC licensed. If anyone would like to help, please get in touch

Edit: I submitted Cov19Tech as a Show HN earlier today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23395475


Maybe a bit of a weird question, but does anyone know why there isn't just a single EU-wide effort? Or is it just politics as usual?


there was an attempt at initial coordination around the DP-3T and PEPP-PT working groups to get a single shared protocol, but that fell apart, while at the same time many countries decided to go different ways.

Timing was relevant, plus different countries also have different regulations that make specific implementations possible or not.

In the middle of this Google and Apple announced their contract tracing framework so some switched once more.

This can be seen clearly in the documents that the italian governmental task force submitted when evaluating the various apps: proponents suggested home grown protocols, reusing existing apps, or deferred to PEPP-PT or DP-3T.

Even the Immuni app which won the selection was supposed to use PEPP-PT, but then switched to the Google/Apple CTF.


Would have taken too long to orchestrate a communal effort, plus this pandemic didn't _exactly_ make EU a more cohesive, quite the opposite especially in the beginning


It does kinda make sense this way, because national healthcare providers are integral to operations.


Commercial interests and national ambitions mainly. Some corporations found it much easier to sell to specific EU countries than to lobby the EU, so deals were made.

Also, the EU is more keen to protect privacy whereas specific EU member states want (to sell) free reign on their citizens.

This lobbying game plays out all the time. You just cherry-pick your targets, find the weakest link so to speak. In this case, he more authoritarian and neo-liberal the parties in charge of the country/region, the easier you will net them.


Interesting. I am curious to see how well it works. The UK (which is developing two apps in parallel, one based on the Google/Apple API and one based on a proprietary protocol similar to PEPP-PT) has found in a large scale trial that though the technology worked relatively well, people did not respond well to being told to isolate by an app.

It would be ironic if after weeks of passionate arguments on HN and other places about the technology and about finding the right balance between efficacy and privacy, the whole thing fails because people don't like the principle.


> though the technology worked relatively well, people did not respond well to being told to isolate by an app.

I would have thought that this depends a lot on the nature of said "message".

It needs to be a personal decision based on evidence you make available to the individual.

For example - if you were to send a message like - here is a photo of you on a bus, this person sitting next to you has tested positive, you sat next to them for 25 minutes - then sure, people will likely take action based on that.

The Government sending a message saying "you need to stay indoors for 2 weeks now because computer said so" is just not compatible with most people's world view, of course that's going to be completely ignored, it's arbitrary house arrest.

It also doesn't help that the UK Government are acting like circus clowns, people are going to say things like "Boris told me to stay indoors, but I needed to test my eyesight[1]".

[1] https://metro.co.uk/2020/05/25/people-warned-not-test-eyesig...


I hadn't seen this re the Isle of Wight but it doesn't surprise me. I would guess it's probably in part because most people were expecting the result of an "exposure notification" to be advice to (and information on how to) get a test.

Instead the policy seems to be a blanket "isolate for 14 days even if you subsequently get a negative test result" which I suspect will go down very poorly, especially when it won't tell you who you were potentially exposed to.


Where are you getting information about the UK trial? I don't think I've heard the finding you said from ministers, they just seem to say it's all great and refuse to engage on it. I don't think they've even admitted developing the second app actually.


The second app we know because there was a work-order modification posted publicly a while ago instructing their app developers to develop a second app as well. You're right that ministers have never formally acknowledged that they are doing it. I do not understand this but then I am from the: people will accept 100x as much incompetence as deceit school of communication and they are not.

The other information comes from Lord Bethel's house of lords testimony and also from this blog: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/blog-post/nhs-covid-19-app-security-... and things linked to from it.


Well, user testing exists for this reasons


Some other countries recently took same path, relevant discussion here :

1) Singapore : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22702701

2) India : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23311298

3) Germany : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23376682 ( no discussion, link to repository )

4) France : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23321137


Japan: An open source community built a contact tracing app but the government doesn't adopt the app and building different app. I expect the app won't be open sourced.

https://github.com/mamori-i-japan/mamori-i-japan-ios


It's not entirely clear what's going to happen with the source of that governmental app, but at least, it's mentioned in https://cio.go.jp/sites/default/files/uploads/documents/tech... (last page)


Oh, I haven't read the sentence. thanks.



Looks nice! Why is "SAP" holding the copyright? In Italy, the government acquired the copyright of the app (it was donated by the company that won the tender to develop it).


Under German law copyright is non-transferrable.

However, the copyright holder can grant another party unlimited usage rights as well as waive the right to be mentioned as the actual copyright holder.

Both of these might apply here: SAP's and Deutsche Telekom's employees most likely have waived their right to be mentioned as individual copyright holders (which is a common stipulation in German employment contracts) while SAP and Deutsche Telekom have not, which is why they are mentioned as copyright holders instead of the Federal Republic of Germany.


You shouldn’t really call the German Author’s Rights Copyright, because it works dirfferently


I think the term in English is "Moral Rights" (Urheberpersönlichkeitsrecht in German but for some weird reason they're apparently different)


The legal system is different. However, copyright is the closest common law approximation.


I thought that you couldn't transfer copyright in Germany, only grant licences with all rights.

Like even as a developer, it's just in your employment contract that you grant all rights for work done for the company to the company.


SAP and Deutsche Telekom -- two large IT corporations -- are the main developers. I don't know why the government doesn't hold the copyright, maybe it should. They've released it as free software, though (Apache license).


As far as I know, in Germany copyright cannot be transferred. There is a special and limited exception for direct employees, so the company can hold the copyright, but I doubt that a client (like the government) could hold it.


IANAL, but AFAIK there is no exception for employees. The employee still holds the copyright, but there is usually a clause in the employment contract that gives the employer "unrestricted usage rights" for any copyrightable product of the employee.

Especially software developers should read those parts of their employment contracts carefully, as they may be overly broad and sometimes accompanied by weird clauses regarding their OSS work.


Not just unrestricted usage, exclusive unrestricted usage, which is why it could be a problem (instead of just being a simple case of dual licencing) if the contract claims rights to off-hours work.

German law has a clear distinction between authorship rights and usage rights. Usage rights, including reproduction, can be sold, rented, perhaps even taken illegally at gunpoint, I don't know. It's just your run off the mill intellectual property. But authorship rights cannot be transferred at all except through inheritance, it's simply impossible for A to pay B to relinquish the right to state that B is the creator of X. But outside of literature and music where special compensation schemes exist this is only about recognition and has zero economic relevance.

This authorship right is also only available to natural persons, so it's clearly not the reason why SAP and T-Systems are still claiming copyright. It just wasn't something the state buyer cared about and given that they apparently did care to get the code under Apache 2 I can't fault them, the result is almost like a reimentation of the recognition part for companies instead of natural persons.


What does it mean to inherit authorship? Can I be th author of something my grandmother created? Can I bequeath my athorship to some corporation?


Inheritance is very relevant in those special fields where a regulated compensation scheme exists in parallel to the sale of usage rights (literature and musical scores). The organisations that are responsible for distribution are kind of notorious for being dominated by heirs. Unsurprisingly, because current creators create, whereas heirs focus all their energy on maximising the harvest.

Another implication that occasionally comes up to freak everybody out is that there is some legal basis for creators to have a word in changes to their work, which can be a total PITA for organizations that once commissioned a building from a famous architect who left assertive offspring.


I was wondering this as well, I did some digging. It's really interesting actually, it doesn't seem that Germany is that much of a veteran when it comes to copyright (In the early 1900's they virtually didn't have any copyright law in place).

To your question, yes you can inherit something from your grandmother. Inheritance is designated by the original author, and enacted in the event of their death (As far as I can tell).

Source: https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_urhg/englisch_ur... (Section 28)


I suppose the idea is Copyright.AuthorId is immutable but its member functions myCopyright.grantPrint() or whatnot() are callable


If the employee still owns the copyright, does that mean employees could continue to use that software after they leave the company?


I'm not German, but as far as I know they have similar system to the one we have in Poland - you can transfer exclusive financial copyrights to another entity but you cannot transfer personal copyrights (so that you can say that you are the author of particular work even if you cannot license it to 3rd parties). In practice, even though personal copyright is not transferable, many employers require you to sign additional civil contract in which you declare that you will never exercise your personal copyright.


In the granting of usage rights it is usually included that the employer will have exclusive usage rights as well (dependent on wording).

I don't know about the exact implications for creating very similar future work (what you would call "infringing copyright") though.


Copyright (at least the closest German equivalent of it) is non-transferable and automatically belongs to the creator, so it isn't really meaningful anyway. That's what licenses are for.


3) Poland's solution was also open sourced very soon https://github.com/ProteGO-Safe . While it could have more privacy protective, as long as it will have an option to turn the contract tracing off I will use it. Unfortunately despite the fact that creators of this app are privacy conscious I only heard about it from negative articles. I checked it myself and they are using centralised tracing system, only because Apple/Google decentrilised one isn't ready and it is a main concern in disparaging articles. I'm not saying that currently Poland isn't going into autocracy, but it isn't a tool in this machine. However with 10k installs in a 40m country it is useless.




The UK has an interesting post-hoc approach where the code is open source but only after release, with the git history squashed.

Discussion here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23107553


Wonder if any of the official apps are using reproducible builds, that can be built from their published source?


Switzerland's app is opensource.

https://github.com/DP-3T



What happened to the US Apple/Google app?


Apple and Google are just providing APIs.

It up to countries and states to build apps on those APIs.



The API is supposed to be available once 13.5 goes live (and it is available in public beta now, I believe). Here is a list of states who are participating with compatible apps: https://9to5mac.com/2020/05/21/covid-19-exposure-notificatio...

TL;DR: Hardly any.

Edit: Whoops, I am out of date, I thought 13.5 was not out yet! Apparently it is, and then some.


From the link above:

> To implement its contact tracing functionality, Immuni leverages the Apple and Google Exposure Notification framework (see Apple’s documentation and Google’s documentation). This allows Immuni to overcome certain technical limitations, thus being more reliable than otherwise would be possible.


13.5 went live on May 20. They just released 13.5.1 yesterday to patch the unc0ver jailbreak.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211214


Ah my bad, thanks for the correction. I'm still at 13.4 and I haven't been overtly refusing upgrade notifications, so I thought it hadn't been released yet.


> and it is released under a GNU Affero General Public License version 3.

AGPL for these apps is probably a good match.


Last I read the UK intends to centrally retain proximity-contact data for 20 years. Rather than deleting when it is decided it's no longer needed to deal with the pandemic.

The UK has also refused to legally commit to not sharing the data with other government departments such as the Home Office (immigration and policing) and DWP (benefits).

So much for data protection and obtaining data for a designated purpose. Whatever happened to the GDPR.

I know enough people that will be inappropriately harmed by this sort of data, whether it is used against them directly or not (it's still a miserable life living in constant fear of "doing something wrong", which now includes "being somewhere you shouldn't be" or "being near someone you shouldn't be"), that I'm firmly against this sort of surveillance state expansion, and firmly in favour of data protection.

As it stands currently I will not install the UK app, and I advise all my friends to steer well clear of it as well.

-

(If they meaningfully improve data protection then I'll change my mind and be all in. E.g. the Google-Apple approach and zero-knowledge methods are enough for me. If epidemiologists and public health would find data useful, let's use some differential privacy. I'm not against data collection done properly in such a way that actually protects people.)


> Last I read the UK intends to centrally retain proximity-contact data for 20 years. Rather than deleting when it is decided it's no longer needed to deal with the pandemic. The UK has also refused to legally commit to not sharing the data with other government departments such as the Home Office (immigration and policing) and DWP (benefits).

that's scary..

any chance you can share the references for these?



"Public Health England will keep personal data of people with coronavirus for 20 years"

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/28/nhs-will-keep-...

"NHS under fire for plans to store track and trace data for 20 years"

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/05/28/nhs-fire-p...

"Demand NHSX spell out Covid-19 app privacy risks"

https://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/protecting-digital...

"Hostile environment may stop migrants from using NHSX tracker app"

https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/hostile-environment-may...

"NHS test and trace privacy doc throws doubt on app’s “anonymity” claims"

https://tech.newstatesman.com/coronavirus/nhs-test-and-trace...

"The privacy risks of the NHSX tracing app are both less and more serious than you think"

https://tech.newstatesman.com/security/nhsx-contact-tracing-...

"Immigration Bill brings surveillance to EU migrants" (This is about exemptions to data protection law for immigration purposes, which affects citizens and non-citizens alike.)

https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/immigration-bill-brings...

"Scotland’s different path on contact tracing is to be welcomed, but questions remain"

https://scotland.openrightsgroup.org/blog/scotlands-differen...


I suspect a certain government advisor, notorious for driving across country during a lockdown as a bizarre form of eye test, wants to siphon private information to data mining companies owned by his friends in order to manipulate future elections. And the GDPR, as far as I am aware, only applies if you are in, or doing business with, the EU, which the UK is no longer part of thanks to the aforementioned government advisor.


The GDPR still applies and will continue to by default, as far as I know. After the transition period the UK would have the choice to repeal or change it but I'm not aware of any push to do so.


Given the transition period is to end in January 2021, very likely with "no deal" given the current chatter coming out of London and Brussels, the GDPR will only be in force for another few months. I very much doubt the "Vote Leave" gang will want to replace it with a UK equivalent with the same teeth.


Finland has an open source fever tracking system too Fevermap at https://fevermap.net/



Good to see they have open sourced the full backend/server code (including analytics code) as well as the client.

The UK has open sourced only the clients source code from what I can tell. This comes on top of the initial refusal to use the Google/Apple API and some downright awful data retention and privacy control policies. What a contrast.


I'm surprised and pleased to see this app being developed properly.

When I was working in Italy, the state of software development was terrible. It looks like now there are great developers too.


This is a great tool for Italy. It's too bad the US government can't step up their game with contact tracing -- we could really use something like this right now.


Has anyone done an analysis of the various open source government contract tracing app? I’d love to read some tear down/code review articles on what each country has released.


You can find an report on the contact tracing app published by the Austrian Red Cross on this site: https://noyb.eu/en/report-red-cross-corona-app-reviewed-noyb

Note that their app was released quite early, specifically before Apple and Google announced their contact tracing plans, and media reports indicate they want to start using those APIs in the first half of June, which will be a major change.

My department at Johannes Kepler University Linz also published an analysis of the NOVID20 SDK(https://novid20.org) when the code for that was first released: https://ins.jku.at/publications/2020/Roland_2020_NOVID20_Ana...


Not exactly what you're asking for but a friend of mine is running a bunch of static analysis tools on these apps, looking for security/privacy warnings:

https://github.com/iivanoo/covid-apps-observer


Australia’s code is also open source.

https://github.com/AU-COVIDSafe


It's available online, but not open source. This is the "licence" they include: https://github.com/AU-COVIDSafe/mobile-ios/blob/master/LICEN...


Curious, is there any traceability to verify the published code is what’s published to the app now or with updates?


The app isn't obfuscated an was quite quickly decompiled.


It's not under an open source license, though. Any idea why?


Because lawyers and a secretive, untrusting government.

Interestingly, much of the code is forked from Singapore's OpenTrace initiative, which is GPL3, so Australia's app is most likely a copyright violation. Whether anyone will take action is another story.


As far as I'm aware, the Australian government got permission from Singapore to make the fork in that way, so as long Singapore didn't accept external contributions (or if they did, under a contributor's agreement) then they're in the clear. GPL doesn't automatically make it impossible to copy code under other licenses. You can license code out in multiple ways. GPL is just the default license that can be used without explicit permission.


Thanks for the info, though I would have imagined that the government, which already has a trust deficit, might have mentioned this somewhere.


I feel like they did, but a quick Google can't turn it up - strange. But I agree they could have been more clear about it. Just one of many issues with how they've handled this situation.


The concept of open source is so horrible to them that it already pains them to just show the source publicly.


These will fail. 1) Not accurate enough; 2) Don’t account for walls/floors; 3) Will have low adoption where anything less than full adoption means fail; 4) can’t account for actually having a virus.

False positives and false negatives combined with lack of rapid result testing will also make this useless. This is why Google and Apple looked around the room and slowly tiptoed away.

Then we have the GDPR. Beat of luck making sure you’re compliant.

Just don’t. Humans do a better job with contact tracing. Not everything needs to be hit over the head with a technology cudgel.


I’d like proof that humans are better at recollecting two weeks of random encounters on the streets, compared to an imprecise Bluetooth app.

Immuni (Italian app) has been analyzed and certified as GDPR compliant by the Italian privacy watchdog, that has a technical department that is actually able to read and understand technical documentation.


I don't think these apps will be a success either but Immuni (the Italian contact tracing app) had more than 500k downloads in a single day on iOS and it's still in testing regime, available only in 4 regions out of 20


Is available for download in the whole country, not only the 4 testing regions


just for completeness: it's even available abroad, though that probably doesn't impact the numbers much.


Why would it need to account for wall/floors? Two phones will exchange codes when they are less than 1m away, you would have to try very hard to get two people as close as 1m with a wall in between


How GDPR applies to random numbers uploaded to a server?


Stop building tools to enable fascists. Has anyone not learned the lessons of history?


I understand those concerns.

But there has been real, high quality progress on handling data in ways that are mathematically designed to conserve privacy and limit surveillance to a specific, socially constructive purpose.

The Google-Apple method is one of those. However, there is a lot of good work being done that is more advanced than that, which alas is not available right now but will be useful in future.

It parallels the high quality progress we have seen in areas like encryption, and in cryptocurrencies.

I think it's completely right to have doubts. E.g. in another of my commments I wrote that I don't trust the UK government's current approach.

But we are, slowly, also building tools to make fascism more difficult as well. If we can persuade the powers that be to use them, and verify that they are.

It may be that if we don't make "good" contact-tracing tools available, someone will make worse contact-tracing tools and force people to use them, on grounds of necessity. It looks like that's already happening, with some countries adopting a central database approach, some countries making it the law to use them (e.g. India), and other countries using newer privacy-oriented contact-tracing approaches.


I would encourage you to read up on the technology behind it. It was intended to be anonymous to such an extend that some governments went out and said they wouldn't use it because of the lack of tracking. The methodology has also been laid out quite extensively, and it's an opt-in approach.


It's not about tracking locations, it's about tracking social connections. I'm a skeptic it won't see abuses.


Read the technical documentation and try to design an attack scenario, before deciding that it certainly can be abused


How can it track social connections when the codes are anonymous by default and can be deanonymized only with an OTP code you generate yourself?


If lots of people are pressured to deanonymize, which they are in this case (it's your civic duty!), that's not a very strong system because a lot can be inferred from "gaps" between people that you are linked to in other contexts.

Just like I can avoid using Facebook but they can still, in principle, keep a shadow profile with lots of details about my life, inferred by putting together knowledge from other people. Just like when I joined LinkedIn it already knew who I knew, without me entering anything except my name and email address (that was spooky, I didn't give it contacts or anything). Just like Google knows your personal interests, even if you delete all cookies at the end of every browsing session.


Are networks of social connections a characteristic that can be fingerprinted just like many other identifying traits (gait detection, location and movement fingerprinting, keystroke forencics, stylometry and linguistic fingerprinting, patterns of timestamps, et cetera)?


Freedom can't survive long if people aren't willing to make sacrifices for it.


Honestly Covid tracing seems fairly moot at this point. With tens of thousands of people marching in the streets every night, aren’t we all basically exposed if we’re part of any network?


Contact tracing is exactly the kind of tool that would help track outbreaks from protests. Unfortunately in the US we have almost no contact tracing going on.

It is unclear how bad the spread from protests will be since protesters are outside and often wear masks, and the density of protesters can vary greatly. I haven't read of documented super spreader events that occurred exclusively outdoors, it would be great science to track the spread due to protests.


* no mobile contact tracing - lots of actual.

I'm not sure how much the mobile protocols would even help in protests. Don't you need proximity with someone for 30 minutes or so to be tagged a contact?


If there was a mobile contact tracing app that used AGPS with accuracy down to ~1m maybe it would be useful?

Existing contact tracing apps use Bluetooth which can't be used to determine proximity with any reliability - solid objects (particularly human bodies) absorb significant signal.

Unless all protestors were holding their phones up high for unimpeded line-of-site connections then even protestors next to each other could 'appear' 20-30m away.

In most cases (especially in a protest situation) all Bluetooth-based contact tracing apps can tell you is that two devices are in Bluetooth range (so accuracy of ~30m?).


You are completely right. The idea of contact tracing a virus that registers as a mild cold for most people is a pipe dream.


No it's not, it's worked completely find in several countries such as South Korea. The more organised ones have already almost eradicated the virus.

It's probably months too late to do it in the US, though.


America is not the world !


Rather bizarrely there are street protests about George Floyd in Europe too.


how is it bizarre? people naturally want to show solidarity with the cause in the US, it's a massive deal for the whole western world.


Hundreds of thousands are dead in Europe from a virus and these people are breaking the rules to stop its further spread because of one incident thousands of miles away that happened to be captured on a smartphone


> one incident thousands of miles away that happened to be captured on a smartphone

This seems incredibly ignorant. The "incident" was a murder, in broad daylight, by a police officer.


8,000 miles away, give or take, and not Europe. And you don’t know why? For shame.

https://twitter.com/joshuapotash/status/1267327498339127298?...


I do know why. The death of one man is a tragedy, the deaths of thousands, merely a statistic. Edited to delete reaching too far


[flagged]


It's not "for this guy in particular". Merely the straw the broke the camel's back.


Don’t know where you got ‘riots all over the world’ from, Mr Throwaway? And you seem to be saying that ‘prior convictions’ excuse this appalling act? Again - for shame.


>Hundreds of thousands are dead in Europe from a virus

The majority of whom where very old and/or in ill-health and had a 5-10% chance of dying in the next year anyway.


You don't seem to attach much value to the lives of the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions. I presume that's because no one you care about, including yourself, is in that category. That's a pretty callous attitude. At 78 you have about a 5% chance of dying in the next year but if you've lived to 78 then your life expectancy is about 10 years. 10 years thrown away so some people can go on a march because they're angry about someone dying. You couldn't make it up.


> they're angry about someone dying.

They're not angry about someone dying!

That's disingenuous, and breaks the basis of your argument.

The problem isn't dying at all, it's why.

They're angry about a murder, which reminds people there are too many murders.

Angry at a murder by a police officer who thought he could casually do so in broad daylight surrounded by onlookers, because he lives in a culture where he expects to get away with it.

Angry at a culture where a police officer can reasonably think he'll get away with it, because they often do.

Angry at the other officers on the scene who went along with it instead of intervening.

Angry at all the other racist murders that keep happening, and systematic racism on a massive scale in general.

That said I thoroughly agree with your point about protecting the elderly. And for that matter, protecting large numbers of young with asthma and diabetes, and conditions nobody knows about because they didn't matter before. (How easily people reduce these things to "just old people" so they can be ageist).

Trouble is, there's a real dilemma over the right and effective things to do. I think there is a deep human social instinct in play. The protests are not about one person dying, or one person being murdered even. They are about a serious systemic problem which undoubtedly results in large numbers of people, more black than not, dying prematurely. As well as a culture problem, which maintains that problem as those with more influence in society treat the problem as unimportant. I would not be surprised if the number of premature black person deaths in the USA, directly or indirectly caused by racism, comfortably exceeds the number of deaths caused directly or indirectly by COVID-19 in the end.


>You don't seem to attach much value to the lives of the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions. I presume that's because no one you care about, including yourself, is in that category. That's a pretty callous attitude.

My parents are in that category, but I attach a very high negative value to using violence (or threat of it) to control people's behaviour. From my perspective it's extremely immoral to say to a huge swarth of the population: you can't work or meet your friends for the next few months, or else we'll throw you in jail if you're caught. I.e. human rights (free movement, association) are human rights; they're not compromisable just because somebody decided it's an emergency or there's some greater good that needs to be enforced. Yes it's reasonable to argue that those at risk have a right not to be infected (e.g. to require potential carriers to stay away), but this doesn't extend to requiring people they have no proximity/interaction with to stay at home and not interact with each other.

> 10 years thrown away so some people can go on a march because they're angry about someone dying.

10 years lost by one person, vs 2-3 years lost by 10 people due to the permanent negative effects on lifetime outcomes of poverty resulting from the lockdown-induced depression. Not to mention lifetime reduction in standard of living. In terms of measure that actually account for this, Quality-Adjusted Life Years, it's like the intervention is probably not a net positive: https://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/economic-cost-o....

>I presume that's because no one you care about, including yourself, is in that category.

Also, in general, making decisions based on their emotional effect on you is a selfish and unprincipled approach to any kind of public policymaking.


> human rights ... they're not compromisable ... or there's some greater good that needs to be enforced ...

Well, there is (was?) the Patriot Act because 3000 were killed in a terrorist attack. This allowed for indefinite detentions, unwarranted search and surveillance, etc. If it is still in act, then it lasted almost 20 years.

I don't assume you agree with measures like the Patriot Act, but I think some weeks of quarantine can be justified by the more than 100000 covid victims in the US, so far.


Your conclusions are highly emotional and based on speculated consequences and thus any decisions you believe should be made would be too, ie the opposite of what you think ought to be the case. It's all about how you may be affected financially and psychologically and may therefore suffer a lower quality of life and lose 2 or 3 years of life decades hence. And for you, that trumps your parents' generation's well being in the here and now.


I would be prepared to raise lockdowns and "sacrifice the elderly" (no, I don't hope they die, I would just advocate instead for better equipping care homes with PPE and sealing them off from visitors) for the sake of younger people. But it isn't really how I myself may be affected, as my existing lifestyle of remote work and reclusive living in the countryside handles the lockdown quite well. Rather, I am concerned about a generation much younger than myself which strict lockdowns prevent from engaging in the perennial rituals of youth. All the reasonable outlets for courtship have been closed in some places for months. You might laugh and say that young people can just suck it up, but lack of courtship opportunities is such a stressor and a source of social instability that large numbers of young men without such prospects are a major focus of their country’s domestic intelligence service around the world.


I agree with you but people being intimate with one or two other people from their locale is a whole different scenario to the protests I've seen where people are ignoring the most basic precautions in crowds numbering thousands.


Where do you think many people find others to be intimate with if not at mass events? Pubs, discos, music festivals, block parties, etc. are the sort of places where young people have always had an outlet to get their fuck on or establish serious relationships that lead to a family, and therefore IMHO it was wrong to prohibit them and go into lockdown for the sake of the elderly (who could be kept protected in some other way). And if those other large events for entertainment and socializing’s sake should permitted, then it would make no sense to complain about political protests being held.


>It's all about how you may be affected financially and psychologically and may therefore suffer a lower quality of life and lose 2 or 3 years of life decades hence.

It's not affecting me at all; I work in finance, in a role that's fine with working from home. I actually made a bunch of money from the massive volatility that the lockdown announcements caused. If you're incapable of making decisions that aren't solely based on self-interest, that doesn't mean it's correct to project and assume everybody else thinks the same.


I'm not in an at risk group but like everyone my life has been restricted greatly these last three months. These mass gatherings of selfish, self regarding, moral guardians risks extending this thing further and deeper for an extremely nebulous benefit.


>These mass gatherings of selfish, self regarding, moral guardians risks extending this thing further and deeper for an extremely nebulous benefit.

Are you in an at-risk group for police brutality? The benefit if the protests achieved their aims would be a lot less nebulous for those people who are.


No but then I've never passed a counterfeit nor robbed a woman at gunpoint in her home either. Also as I pointed out elsewhere the risk of death a person of color by the hand a black or Hispanic cop is at least as great as by a white policeman


>No but then I've never passed a counterfeit nor robbed a woman at gunpoint in her home either.

The majority of interaction with Americans I have is via this site, and I've seen quite a few comments over the years by people who claim to have received bad treatment at the hands of police in spite of doing nothing wrong.


Reply to sibling's reply to me. Why do you think she was subjected to that? I would guess it's because of the high levels of illegal immigration into European countries from Africa and many other places, including the trafficking of women for prostitution. It sucks for your gf that she perhaps looked to these policemen like she maybe fitted the demographic somehow but what are the police supposed to do?


To my sibling commenter (because reply stops at this depth):

> I'm not black but I've been subjected to stop and search on the streets of London. I've been taken aside and put in a room by police while they checked me out on entering the UK only to eventually be told "OK, you can go" at the end of it, no apology. But generally I've found with police that if you're polite and cooperative they are respectful in return. My first boss in the UK, who wasn't white, one of the first things he said to me was to be wary of black people, they have a chip on their shoulder. I was pretty shocked to hear him say that actually.

I'm not black either, and I live in the UK.

I've been stopped by police, I've seen others stopped by police, and I've been with people who are stopped by police.

For the most part the interactions have been fine, but I have seen what looked like black folks "hassled" in London which I have not seen happen to white folks. It is just anecdata and may be nothing but random experiences.

For me the most striking difference was on the border between France and Switzerland.

My girlfriend was black; I was white. We were stopped at the border driving across, by men with extremely large guns. I got a cursory skim of my papers, but my black girlfriend had to get out of the car, be detained for a while, have her papers checked other and generally given a hard time. Even though she had a stronger connection to both countries than I did. However we both had UK passports. They basically didn't believe she was a UK citizen, or that she worked for the UN... just down the road!

Eventually they let us drive on, but it was a very striking difference in treatment.


I'm not black but I've been subjected to stop and search on the streets of London. I've been taken aside and put in a room by police while they checked me out on entering the UK only to eventually be told "OK, you can go" at the end of it, no apology. But generally I've found with police that if you're polite and cooperative they are respectful in return. My first boss in the UK, who wasn't white, one of the first things he said to me was to be wary of black people, they have a chip on their shoulder. I was pretty shocked to hear him say that actually.


many people (myself included) don't think of it as an incident, but murder - which is just another case of long-running systemic racism and police brutality in the US.

Europe is doing much much better than the US in terms of dealing with the virus, so it's actually not unreasonable to say that it might be a risk worth taking.


Is Europe doing much better? I don't think so. Anyway who are you to decide it's ok to risk more dying so you can protest? That policeman made a similar judgement, I don't think he expected the man to die but he was prepared to risk it.


It's also quite bizarre to see people dying because they are black. Actually it's so bizarre that people can't help but have to break rules to send a message.

As far as I can tell, it's not about that one 'incident' but about all the deaths that weren't recorded, and the many lives that are spent in fear.


There are lots of black policemen in America, black police chiefs, black mayors And in terms of being killed, the people black people are most at risk from are other black people, by a wide margin


Is this also true for being killed by a black police officer? If so, please add a reference.

Otherwise it's quite expected that in a segregated society, people are killed by in-group members. This would only be different if there is a huge number of lynch mobs.

That said, there is another issue hidden beneath 'by a wide margin'. It's also bizarre that there is so much more crime among black people, and that blacks are over-proportionally incarcerated. The easy answer is that blacks are so much more violent. But if you look closer, don't you think that's a bit puzzling?


You cannot draw simple conclusions I believe but still the stats show that

Black and Hispanic police are as likely or more likely to kill people of color as white officers

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/police-officer-shooti...

With regard to your second point, you're hinting at something, why don't you spell out your aetiology for the high levels of crime along black people along with your evidence for that causation.


> Black and Hispanic police are as likely or more likely to kill people of color as white officers

If that's true, it suggests the racism problem is more serious than we thought; that police of all colors may be endemically racist as a group; that it's not just mainly white police.

That said, we don't see black-on-black murders of innocent people so much. This might be due the symbolism of white-on-black murders in broad daylight with onlookers. Or it might not. Regardless, it's all racism if innocent black folks are getting murdered more often.


>That said, we don't see black-on-black murders of innocent people so much.

Really? The murder rate inside the black community is massively higher than within any other community in America. Also black people murder more white people than vice versa. If you take account of the different community sizes the disparity becomes even more extreme. If this is coming as news to you I don't know where you've been all your life.


Sorry, I mis-wrote that due to an editing mistake, and it's too late to edit the comment now.

What I meant to write was we don't see black-on-black police murders of innocent people hitting the big news and causing mass demonstations so much.


You're right we don't see them hitting the news and causing mass demonstrations. We also never have mass demonstrations when a black person kills a white person. And yet interestingly, far more white people are killed by black people than vice versa.


Fair argument. If you are interested in a moved goalpost: If 9 out of 10 officers are black in a black neighborhood, then the majority of victims is shot by black officers. The question is: How are black people treated when they are in a non-black neighborhood.

My 'aetiology', I think it comes down to less opportunities. Without discipline that comes from a stable environment, motivation can easily turn to violence and crime. This leads to difference in police behavior. I have nothing to back this up and I don't know how to 'cure' this.

To bring this back to the start: All I want to say is that the protests are not that bizarre. America is the cultural center of the West, people are as informed about this incident as they are about their local news. Many don't want to live in a racist future, even more so for their children. So they risk the lives of their parents to improve the lives of their children.

Was this a death caused by racism? I don't know. It appears to be. Thus the protests.


Concentrated outside US Embassies, from what I understand.


It has spread to at least Paris and Amsterdam. Including the looting.


Don't know about Paris, but no looting in Amsterdam...


Neither in Paris


source on the looting part?


None. Its complete and utter bullshit. Any looting beyond someone pilfering a traffic cone would be all over the national news here in the Netherlands.


My bad, I saw things on fire in the streets and assumed looting. You're correct that doesn't appear to be happening this time.




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