Apple and Google announced a joint effort in developing a system that helps government and health agencies in tracking the spread of Coronavirus with the help of users’ data. The companies announced a two step approach which includes application programming interfaces (API) and a broader system level platform using Bluetooth to build a robust voluntary contact tracing network. Apple and Google said that the user privacy and security will be an integral part of the new system. Further, the two companies have released draft documentation detailing the new system.
Apple and Google Contact Tracing System
Apple and Google highlighted that the public health officials have identified contract tracing as a crucial mechanism to aid in containing the spread of COVID-19.
As part of their efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, the two companies in May will introduce a pair of APIs which the apps from the public health authorities can bank on. The companies said that the apps would then be available on respective app stores for users to download and voluntarily participate in building the giant network.
Apple and Google will then work on integrating the functionality into the operating system which would indicate that anyone with an iOS or an Android phone can take advantage of the solution.
“Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders,” the companies said in the release. “We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”
Contact Tracing Functionality
According to the system documentation, the API framework is designed for the developers to install an “privacy preserving contact tracing solution.”
Upon installing the apps, an user can voluntarily report themselves as positively diagnosed of having the virus. Using the tracing keys of the affected user, the app would then alert others of being potentially exposed to the virus if they are in close proximity to the affected person.
While the impact of app based systems could be far limited due to the need of apps, the broader platform which is said to be integrated into the OS would lift the limitation.
It has to be noted that with privacy at the center of the new system, no other data is believed to be shared apart from individual tracing keys assigned to the device.