The Linux Foundation, which supports open-source innovation in blockchain tech, launched the (LFPHI) at the end of July. The LFPHI’s goal is to promote the use of open source by public health authorities, which can be scrutinized by anyone, to fight not just COVID-19 but future pandemics as well.
Among the seven core members of the LFPHI are Tencent, Cisco and IBM. The initiative is supporting two exposure notification projects, “COVID Shield” and “COVID Green,” with the aim of improving interoperability across initiatives in different jurisdictions.
Based on the Google and Apple Bluetooth notification systems, those apps notify people when they’ve been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. These open-source apps are built using the Apple and Google protocol for notifications, but the apps themselves are transparent and therefore more trustworthy than closed apps, where there is no insight into the code driving them.
Dan Kohn, general manager of the new initiative, sees open-source technology as necessary for a privacy-respecting exposure notification app, but not solely sufficient.
“It is totally possible to create an app that’s horrible for privacy that is open source,” said Kohn. “But what open source does is it stops you from just claiming that it respects privacy, because any expert could check on that.”
In other words, the system can be not only privacy-respecting, but provably-privacy respecting.