Apple, Google join hands to develop COVID-19 tracking tool
Tech giants Apple and Google announced on Friday that they are collaborating to build a Bluetooth-based COVID contact tracing platform that informs people when they have come in contact with a coronavirus-infected person. The collaboration would help health officials track the spread of the disease without violating the user's privacy.
"Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy," the joint statement by Apple and Google read.
Google and Apple are working on application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. The APIs would allow iOS and Android to exchange information and make use of them. The Apps once released by Apple and Google will be available for download in the App Store and Play Store
So once the feature is implemented, whenever two people come in contact with each other, their phones will exchange an identification key. However, if one of them contracts the COVID-19, he can let others know about it through the app. The system will then inform other users who have been in contact with the infected person, so they can either get tested for coronavirus or self-quarantine till the results are out. All this would be done without revealing your name or any other data as the tech giants had promised complete privacy. You will not be told about the person who has contracted the coronavirus, you will be simply notified that you have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person.
India currently has an Aarogya Setu app that can help the officials in contact tracing. However, due to the absence of API's currently, there cannot be any interoperability between Android and iOS devices. But once Google and Apple implement the feature, things might be a little different. The tech giants plan to launch the platform in two phases, the first launch might take place somewhere in mid-May.
"Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate if they choose to opt-in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze, " the joint statement read.