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

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Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: New York reports most COVID cases since MayStudies show drop in coronavirus death rate — The next wave is gaining steam.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.
  5. World: Spain becomes first nation in Western Europe to exceed 1 million cases.
Updated Aug 30, 2020 - World

Berlin police break up protests against coronavirus restrictions

A protester confronting a police officer in Berlin on Aug. 28. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Berlin police arrested 300 demonstrators after disbanding a protest Saturday over Germany's coronavirus restrictions as tens of thousands of participants refused to maintain social distancing, per the BBC.

Why it matters: Berlin's regional government tried to ban the protest earlier this week, citing concern for public health. Protesters successfully appealed the decision on Friday, though a court required demonstrators to observe social distancing.

Aug 29, 2020 - World

Europe fears second coronavirus wave as cases surge

A representation of the coronavirus at a Berlin protest against Germany's virus restrictions on Aug. 28. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several European countries have reported a jump in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks after a drop in cases over June and July, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Why it matters: The surge could indicate that Europe is on the verge of a second wave, though currently fewer people are dying from the virus and new cases have needed less medical treatment than those who got it in the spring, according to the Washington Post.

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