Smartphones are going to play a major role if the world needs to keep the coronavirus infection at bay until its vaccine is developed. Realizing the situation that the entire world is in and the role of smartphones, Google and Apple teamed up to work on a cross-compatible contact tracing API for iPhones and Android devices.
By using contact tracing, Apple and Google hope to alert users whenever they have come near a person who is already infected with COVID-19. In contact tracing via smartphones, whenever two devices are in close proximity to each other, they ping each other using Bluetooth Low Energy. In Apple and Google’s API implementation, this Bluetooth metadata is encrypted and the data is stored in a decentralized server. A device would then download the logs from a decentralized server and match it with the log in its database.
If any person has reported themselves as COVID-19 positive and their information shows up in the log, the user would be alerted that they had come in contact with an infected person. At no point in time though, Apple or Google will reveal a user’s identity. They will simply state that the user had come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person. Similarly, users will manually need to report that they have been tested positive for COVID-19.
Due to privacy concerns, Apple and Google improved the privacy and accuracy aspect of their API after their initial announcement. They also changed its name from contact tracing to exposure notification API. The entire process is also opt-in meaning that users will have to manually enable the contact tracing feature on their device. Another important thing to note is that Google and Apple are just making the exposure notification/contact tracing API available to public health authorities recognized by the government of every country. For safety and privacy reasons, they are not going to make this API available to third-party developers.
Many people, however, are skeptical about how Google and Apple will use their data. Both companies have done privacy blunders in the past that would make many users wary of sharing such sensitive information with them. Apple does value privacy more than Google but it has had its own share of privacy blunders. Will you be ready to use a contact tracing app powered by Google and Apple’s exposure notification API to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and for your own safety? Or will you value your privacy more? Take part in our poll and drop a comment below to share your thoughts with us!
Poll: Will You Use the Contact Tracing App Powered by Apple and Google API?
— iPhone Hacks (@iPhoneHackx) May 1, 2020