The COVID-19 pandemic is a black swan event unlike anything before in modern times, both in its scope and in its impact upon our everyday lives.
Almost 40% of [Canadian] employees now work from home, up from about 10%. — Investment Executive
- Virtual meeting software (downloads, configuration, etiquette).
- Optimize your WiFi network for working at home.
- A COVID-19 crisis management plan for small businesses.
Fake News & Misinformation
There are a lot of fake news and misinformation designed to scare you.
Governments and social media continue to look at ways of using our cellphones to track us — often without any sunset clause that would remove this privacy invasion once the pandemic ends.
Don't buy into fake information. Use legitimate sources.
COVID-19 can have severe adverse affects including requiring critical care (ventilators), often resulting in death. Vulnerable populations, like those with existing diseases, are particularly at risk.
[A] list of conditions that have been designated as risk conditions for COVID-19 by public health agencies: diabetes, heart disease, asthma or chronic obstructive airway disease, chronic kidney disease, disabling neurological disease, liver disease and immunodeficiency or immunosuppression. — Paul M. McKeigue et el
- COVID-19: How to protect yourself (Kidney Foundation of Canada).
Be aware of province-wide restrictions on gatherings and travel designed to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
Whether you agree with these or not, the increased infection rates following major holidays indicate that ignoring these simply prolong those restrictions.
Wear a Face Mask
Wearing a face mask, even a less advanced one, can help reduce both the risk and the severity of illness.
With more contagious coronavirus variants spreading, a simple cloth mask might not be enough.
You could soon start seeing new labels that cover filtration efficiency, fit, and breathability — Consumer Reports
Masks are mandatory in most of Canada, at least while indoors.
Wearing a mask protects others. I wear a mask to protect you and you wear a mask to protect me.
A mask should have 3 layers of cotton, or 2 layers of cotton with a pocket for a polypropylene filter insert. Single layer masks will not provide enough filtration.
The mask should fit snugly around your face. There should be no gaps around the nose bridge, sides of the face or under the chin.
DO NOT buy a mask with a filtration valve. Filtration valves let out air.
If you're finding it difficult to breathe, find a better-fitting mask.
- A scientific look at why masks work (but only if everyone wears them).
- How face masks work and which types offer the best COVID-19 protection.
- New standards will help you choose an effective COVID-19 face mask.
- Masks4Canada has excellent information.
Much like masks, getting vaccinated helps protect others as well as yourself.
The COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone living in B.C. who is eligible.
Be wary in giving out information to prove you are eligible to receive a vaccine. You'll only need to confirm your name and personal health number. Do not provide credit card or other personal details.
The vaccine is being distributed according to priorities with the most vulnerable because of age, occupation or chronic illness the main considerations.
Protection for Immunosuppressed Uncertain
This is even more important for those of us that are on immunosuppressants (anti-rejection medications taken by organ transplant patients). As the name implies, these medications not only suppress rejection, but also reduce our ability to resist rejection.
Immunosuppressed patients were not a part of the pre-release human trials for any of the COVID-19 vaccines. This issue is just starting to be researched and the numbers indicate that many such patients are unable to create the antibodies required to make the vaccine effective.
Among 436 people who'd had liver, heart, kidney, and other organ transplants, just 17% had detectable antibodies. — Science Magazine
In the study of more than 650 organ recipients -- who take drugs to suppress their immune system so they won't reject their new organs -- 46% had no antibody response after two doses of Pfizer or Moderna. — CNN
This means that we're depending on the rest of you to get vaccinated to make it safe enough for us to rejoin many of the activities that are becoming available to the general population as governments allow gradual reopening of social activities.
Answers to COVID Questions
- The risks - know them - avoid them.
- André Picard: straight answers to key coronavirus questions.
- How to exercise at home during the Coronavirus.
- How to handle a home service call during the pandemic.
- What to do if your appliance breaks during the pandemic.
Privacy in a Pandemic
COVID-19 has affected many areas of our lives, none more so than our privacy.
One significant privacy concern is the issue of COVID tracking.
How do you provide realtime tracking of infections combined with the ability to monitor who they've come into contact with and still maintain privacy?
Using Cellphone Data
The most common solutions so far have been apps installed onto cellphones that continuously monitor who is nearby.
Location information can reveal some of the most intimate details of a person's life — whether you've visited a psychiatrist, whether you went to an A.A. meeting, who you might date. — Senator Ron Wyden
The massive growth of privacy-invading technologies in the last decade are being re-ignited as the demand for control of the COVID-19 pandemic grips our world and proponents of 24-7 universal surveillance are hard at work.
Early on in the pandemic, we thought one of the very few silver linings could be the decline in facial-recognition technologies - but we've absolutely found that it's the opposite.
The pandemic has unfortunately provided cover for companies to push out to what are effectively mass-surveillance infrastructures, under the guise of public health. — Ella Jakubowska, European Digital Rights
When Will It End?
There are many examples. Few of these have limits on the lifespan of the collected information or its uses.
At the very least, there needs to be a sunset clause that ends tracking when the pandemic ends, or we'll simply have a repeat of the 9-11 fiasco.
- They want to use your location data to fight pandemic.
- The value and ethics of using phone data to monitor COVID-19.
- Protecting privacy if cell phone tracking is used.
Trust Needs to Be Earned
Valuable for Marketing and Surveillance
The prospect of even more detailed information on the bulk of the population would be extremely valuable from both a marketing and a police surveillance perspective.
Although poorly understood at the time, one of the biggest long-term impacts of the September 11 attacks was expanded surveillance in the United States and other democracies, by both public and private sectors.
Similarly, one of COVID-19s most important long-term impacts will be the reshaping of digital surveillance across the globe, prompted by the public health need to more closely monitor citizens.
The stakes are high. If democracies fail to turn the future of global surveillance in their favor, digital authoritarian competitors stand ready to offer their own model to the world. — Nicholas Wright
- Democracies must offer an alternative to authoritarian solutions.
- These 30 regimes are using coronavirus to repress their citizens.
Restoring Privacy has tips and tools to help you restore your privacy.
- Protecting civil liberties during a public health crisis.
- COVID-19 and digital rights.
- EFF's Guide to Digital Rights During the Pandemic in PDF, Mobi or ePub format (by donation).
The pandemic has changed the future of cybersecurity.
The pandemic has created new opportunities for hackers and those that would use our increased online presence and fears to line their pockets at our expense.
Security threats in the second quarter of 2020 continue to target remote workers, but attackers aren't relying on COVID-19-themed phishing: They're going straight for vulnerable home networks where workers are conducting business. — TechRepublic
Phishing Attacks Increased
Phishing attacks are on the increase.
Most phishing attempts cite some “authority” to tempt you to ignore common sense and download malicious files like this one:
Be wary of attachments in unexpected messages, including delivery notices, voice mail notices, etc.
Be sure to get your information directly from official sources, NOT unsolicited emails.