Historic: Apple And Google Join Hands For Contact Tracing Technology To Combat COVID-19
To help public health officials slow the spread of #COVID19, Google & @Apple are working on a contact tracing approach designed with strong controls and protections for user privacy. @tim_cook and I are committed to working together on these efforts.https://t.co/T0j88YBcFu— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) April 10, 2020
Contact tracing uses mass surveillance to track citizens' movement and is currently the most potent weapon governments have to monitor the spread of the highly infectious virus.
(Credit - Apple and Google)
“We are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design,” both companies said in a joint statement.
Contact tracing can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and can be done without compromising user privacy. We’re working with @sundarpichai & @Google to help health officials harness Bluetooth technology in a way that also respects transparency & consent. https://t.co/94XlbmaGZV— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) April 10, 2020
In May, both companies will release APIs that “enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices” using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download from the App Store and Google Play.
These apps will share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions. The system will alert the app users in case they come nearby a COVID-19 carrier but for that, both parties must be registered on the apps.
Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns over tracking users with phone data, arguing that any such system's scope should be limited and without infringing +user privacy.
Though unlike GPS tracking, this system doesn’t track a user’s physical location but accumulates signals of nearby phones at five-minute intervals and store them in a database. If one person tests positive, they could inform the app they’ve been infected, and it would further notify other people whose phones passed within close range in the previous days.