Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images

A team of Google veterans and others is launching the nonprofit CVKey Project to help communities restart amid the coronavirus pandemic. Its centerpiece, for now, is an app to let venues assess the health risk a particular person poses and whether to admit them.

Why it matters: There are a lot of ideas on how best to store data about coronavirus risk and exposures, but privacy concerns abound as well.


  • CVKey’s app asks people about any symptoms, among other questions. Based on their responses, it generates a QR code indicating whether they’re safe to enter a particular place, based on that location’s policies rather than any top-down criteria from CVKey.
  • However, the health data behind the QR code stays on the device, CVKey says, to ensure privacy. The app doesn’t store data in the cloud, nor does it access location data.
  • CVKey is a mostly volunteer effort, led by Brian McClendon, who helped start Keyhole (the company that became Google Maps), and with a lot of ex-Googlers lending their skills.

What he's saying: "We don't want to sacrifice our civil liberties or compromise privacy in the rush to reopen," McClendon said in a statement.

  • After leaving Google, McClendon led Uber's mapping effort from 2015–2017 before moving back to his native Kansas, where he is active in politics and ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Kansas secretary of state.

The big picture: Even assuming the privacy issues are taken care of, the criteria for determining whether someone is a risk or not remain in flux.

  • Health officials, for example, think — but don't know for sure — that those who have been sick with COVID-19 have some amount of immunity to reinfection.
  • And many people with the disease have few or no symptoms, meaning the app might grade them as low-risk even though they can still spread the disease.

What's next: McClendon said CVKey will adapt as knowledge about the coronavirus improves and also plans over time to add more apps and features, including exposure notification. The group is also soliciting additional volunteers.

Go deeper: Big Tech moves into government vacuum on coronavirus

Go deeper

Aug 5, 2020 - Health

Virginia launches contact tracing app using specs from Apple and Google

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Virginia's health department released a coronavirus contact tracing app on Wednesday that relies on a Bluetooth-based system designed by Apple and Google.

Why it matters: Adoption of COVID-19 tracing tech in the U.S. has been limited compared to other countries — and tracking who has possibly been exposed to the virus (and promptly notifying them) is crucial to stem the spread.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 19,111,123 — Total deaths: 715,163— Total recoveries — 11,578,821Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 4,883,657 — Total deaths: 160,104 — Total recoveries: 1,598,624 — Total tests: 59,652,675Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi rips GOP over stimulus negotiations: "Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn."
  4. Public health: Majority of Americans say states reopened too quicklyStudy finds antibodies prevalent in NYC health care workers.
  5. Business: The health care sector imploded in Q2More farmers are declaring bankruptcyJuly's jobs report could be an inflection point for the recovery.
  6. Sports: Where college football's biggest conferences stand on playing.
Updated 13 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

An uptick in coronavirus cases in Europe is stoking fears that some countries, including France and Germany, could see a second wave, The New York Times reports.

The big picture: Both Germany and France have reported their highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases in months this past week. Some coronavirus mitigation efforts, like social distancing, aren't being enforced as strongly as they previously were.