Apple unveils maps tool showing activity changes during pandemic

Joanna Estrada
April 16, 2020

Their aim is to solve one of the world's most pressing problems, the novel Coronavirus.

As part of this partnership, Google and Apple are releasing draft technical documentation including Bluetooth and cryptography specifications and framework documentation. The first will launch sometime within May, through APIs that allow health agencies to implement the contact tracing tool into their own apps.

The proposed solution will work in two stages. "These systems also can't be effective if people don't trust them".

A couple of days ago, Apple and Google came together in what was an unprecedented announcement.

The technology would rely on the Bluetooth signals that smartphones can both send out and receive. Phones within about six feet can record anonymous information about encounters.

Explaining how Apple collects this data from its Maps app, the company wrote, "The information is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions".

It's also a relatively new program, and Apple and Google are still talking to public health authorities and other stakeholders about how to run it.

According to Google and Apple, reports will only be received by legitimate healthcare providers to ensure its authenticity. Apple and Google said their contact tracing system will not track GPS location.

The American Civil Liberties Union has warned that using cellphone data to address the pandemic carries risks of "invasions of privacy, abuse, and stigmatization". In May, the two companies plan to release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices for an opt-in tracing tool. Now the Apple Maps users will notice Grocery Stores at the top followed by a new category of food delivery. This helps Maps users enjoy a safe turn-by-turn experience helping them go from point "A" to point "B" while keeping their details secret. During this phase, users will still have to download an app to participate in contact-tracing, which could limit adoption.

"It's very interesting, but a lot of people worry about it in terms of a person's freedom".

The information is being updated daily and compared with a date in mid-January, before most US lockdown measures were in place, Apple said.

The iPhone-maker does not believe that sharing the information compromises its users' privacy.

For instance, New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told Reuters on Friday that tracing will not be helpful until the virus is controlled, with apps potentially proving expedient when someone has crossed paths with many people.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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