Innocence Lost — And Regained

Why lockdowns, surveillance and contact tracing fall short — and what doesn’t.

Freedom. Gone.

Life was so simple. We used to be able to travel, hop in a car or train, meet anybody we want, walk into any building or store, have fun, study, attend church.

And then came Covid-19, and so many freedoms vanished. Our social life and businesses were closed down. And to open them again, the most frequently peddled solutions are continued lockdowns, total surveillance, and contact tracing by governments.


Just a few months ago, when somebody talked about a government tracing and knowing about every person’s location, movements, and interactions with every other person at any point in time, it brought up visions of the darkest corners and times of human history. It was considered totalitarian, because it is, by definition. And so, a government practicing total surveillance seemed unacceptable to free Western-style democracies.

Today, the dividing lines no longer seem as clear-cut. But equating total surveillance with safety from a virus is a false narrative, because it does not even address the immediate issue at hand for most of us: How do we make sure, in our daily lives, that we are safe and that we can help those that probably aren’t?

Yes, we must give data to people. Relevant and actionable data, when and where they need it. And we must do so while preserving the privacy of our fellow workers, community members, and citizens.

It’s All About Data.

All of us need such data. Not just our governments, health care providers, or emergency personnel. This data must be accessible when we encounter others, and available before we interact with them, we ourselves, or others who come together for business, educational, social, cultural, or religious reasons.

At that point, we must be able to find out about the status of those around us. If we know about other’s risks, and about their infection and Antibody status, we can make the right and smart decisions. This is all we need to know and share, not who others are, where they were, what they did, or who they interacted with.

Neither contact tracing, diagnostic testing, nor measuring one’s temperature address this. These can play a role to target the disease AFTER the fact, or to prevent it generally. They do not, however, provide the most critical piece of information that can immediately help open up the economy and society: relevant and actionable data about the person in front of me when he or she enters my premises or starts interacting with me, my employees, my business partners, my community, or my customers. It can be relevant and actionable even if it is not perfect but just expressed as probabilities.

Heal ID.

Such data must not be taken but voluntarily given, though. It has to preserve our privacy. It must not share our medical secrets. And it must be universally accessible in a simple way.

The Heal ID app does exactly that. A simple scan by pointing a smartphone at a barcode, and you know everything you need to know. But nothing about the other person. It is totally private, non-intrusive.

1. Heal ID gives you verified, validated, and highly relevant data about a person’s likely infection, Antibody, and risk status. It draws on Antibody tests and compares their results to your safety standards. As new and improved tests, standards, and research kick in, their findings are instantaneously incorporated. Fully automated, and totally transparent.

2. Heal ID anonymizes this data. It encrypts it and does not reveal its specific contents. All it does is let somebody else check whether a person does exceed a threshold. It associates one’s identity with a barcode, and removes personally identifiable links. Not even test providers may know whose data they are processing. This is because it is irrelevant to the question at hand, which is whether my risk, infection, or Antibody status requires the other person being particularly careful to protect me.

3. Heal ID makes this anonymous and encrypted information universally accessible — at the discretion of each person. Without revealing your identity or even the specific contents of your data, you can let anybody, anywhere check whether your status requires them to specifically take care of you. You only need a smartphone.

Power to the People.

And here is the real biggie. All this empowers people, particularly those in a position of responsibility: business owners, managers, administrators, academia, and policy makers. Until now, they only have general information based on counting the sick and dead for a whole city, state, or country, or whatever temperature checks or self-reported symptoms people share. Maybe they know a bit more about their employees, but definitely not about business partners, customers, or random people. But now, with Heal ID, they can get specific and directly relevant information about the person that they encounter, without any need to invade their privacy.

This information is not perfect, but it is getting better every day. More tests, better tests, and multiple tests add up. Modern society is built on exactly that, using big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and smart analytics and algorithms. The more data we make available, anonymous, encrypted, but highly relevant data, the more we can provide feedback to academia, researchers, and policy makers.

With Heal ID, all of them, and anybody, can get actionable information when and where they need it. It creates a virtuous cycle.

Action: Back to Life!

There is no drawback. Just a simple, safe, and privacy-preserving way of getting back to work and back to life. Everybody who is safe can immediately do exactly that. Everybody else can be protected. After all, those we consider as having sufficiently high Antibody counts to be considered “clear” and safe to be around. They can actively help others that don’t have that status yet — if we know that about them.

And so any organization can smartly and safely bounce back, only applying social distancing where and when needed.

Nobody loses. Everybody wins.

And there we are: We can immediately start opening up the economy in a safe way. We can create jobs again, re-start social and cultural life. We can open up offices, campuses, stores, restaurants, churches, travel, and social, cultural, and sports events.

Life can be simple again. And safe. Without giving up your privacy.



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Bert Kastel

Bert Kastel


Student of emerging tech. Guide to anticipate, prepare, and benefit from techtonic shifts. Strategist for 21st century adaptive societies and resilient systems.