Google and Apple hope contact-tracing apps will augment the manual process of tracking individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 by attempting to notify everyone with whom an infected individual may have come into contact.
The two companies are designing the contact tracing (exposure notification) platform to preserve user privacy. For the exposure-tracking apps to be useful, you'll need to enable notifications (though you don't have to, and you can also turn them off at any time).
A public version of the API is due for release later this month. Apple and Google also said Monday they will allow only one app per country to use the contact system, to avoid fragmentation and encourage wider adoption. Now, the companies have said they will ban the use of location tracking in apps that use that new contact tracing system.
The two companies have also released new policies that any developers working with the API must adhere to in order to get their apps approved for use.
Apple and Google said they would continue support countries that decide to use locally-made tracing systems, such as France, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
"If a user decides to participate, exposure notification data will be stored and processed on the device".
More details about the contact-tracing API developed jointly by Apple and Google showed location data, among other things, could not be harvested.
Apple and Google allege that unlike other systems, theirs will not collect location information or identifying information about those that test positive for the coronavirus. Software maker Twenty, developer of Utah's Healthy Together contact tracing service with Global Positioning System and Bluetooth, said its application "operates effectively" without help from industry heavyweights.
Alternatives likely would miss some encounters because iPhones and Android devices turn off Bluetooth connections after some time for battery-saving and other reasons unless users keep in mind to re-activate them.
An initial version of the API was released last week. The whole concept is a lot easier to explain with images, and Apple and Google have both released concept screenshots of how these apps may look like. However, the exact kind of COVID-19 notification that the person receives will depend on the agencies.
An app would allow public health agencies to alert people who may have been exposed and enable those people to either quarantine or seek testing.
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