Apple, Google release coronavirus tracking tools for iOS, Android devices

Joanna Estrada
May 23, 2020

Apple and Google have officially launched their Exposure Notification system - previously debuted as contact-tracing software - which is created to alert users of possible contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Trudeau had not promoted the use of a tracing app, but on Friday he said the government was working "closely" with Apple and Google and would "strongly recommend" one as soon as their tracing technology is ready.

Apple and Google said the application programming interface (API) was created to improve local contact tracing efforts and not replace them. Now, public health organisations can use it in forthcoming apps.

"You get to a point where the phone is locked and the app is running in the background". These apps have been deployed by state and local agencies, but subsequent operating system updates are in the domain of tech companies, where Patterson said the problem was.

The contact tracing system relies on Bluetooth wireless technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who has tested positive for the virus.

However, if the companies want the contact tracing apps to be successful, they will likely have to do more than enable the apps on a technical level behind the scenes. While countries like America, Germany and Switzerland are embracing this new API for their own apps, other authorities have been less than accepting.

If one is later diagnosed with the coronavirus, the other can be given an alert, which might suggest they self-isolate and/or request a medical test of their own. No data goes to Apple or Google.

Ms Teague said the Apple/Google system would mean health authorities are removed from the process. Apple and Google's solution ensures broad adoption as it supports interoperability across different devices and different apps as long as it uses the same API.

"The technology and uptake of Australia's COVIDSafe app is leading the world and Minister Hunt is today meeting with the VP of Apple to discuss its success and Australia's roadmap out of the crisis". Only public health authorities will have access to that data-though we must note that Apple and Google will have no say in who these authorities then share the data with.

Apart from this, the app could also be tricked into allowing access to internal files on the user's phone. An Oxford University study found that for contact tracing programs to significantly slow the spread of disease, 60% of the population must participate (although, it said, even a 20% participation rate might yield useful insights).

"That is the key democratic decision to be made", she said.

And all of this is assuming that people will be downloading these apps in the first place. These APIs are said to be improving the technology of the existing contact tracing applications.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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