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Apple, Google Turn Smartphones Into Covid-19 Tracking Devices
Apple and Google have joined hands to develop a software system to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The software setup will work on Bluetooth technology across both iOS and Android phones to enable 'Contact Tracing' of people affected by Coronavirus. The software setup will alert phone users to limit proximity with the coronavirus infected people.
The first of its kind partnership between the two major Silicon-Valley giants will result in a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing of COVID-19 infected people. The technology rivals plan to implement the solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.
Starting May, Apple and Google will start releasing the APIs to enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. The duo confirmed that these official apps will be made available for both Android and iOS users to download via their respective app stores.
In the second step, which will commence 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. Both firms are looking forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.
Your Privacy Will Not Be Compromised
Privacy is a major concern in order to track those infected from the deadly COVID-19 or coronavirus. Some countries were found leveraging smartphone's location tracking, credit card records, and CCTV footages to prevent spreading of the virus. We were concerned that Apple and Google's software setup will also compromise the basic privacy of phone users across the globe.
However, Apple and Google mentioned that privacy, transparency, and consent will be of utmost importance in the joint effort. The test papers released by Google and Apple mention, "Maintaining user privacy is an essential requirement in the design of the software's specifications."
The duo also shared some technical details on how the tracing system ensures that the users' privacy is not compromised.
- The Contact Tracing Bluetooth Specification does not use location for proximity detection. It strictly uses Bluetooth beaconing to detect proximity.
- A user's Rolling Proximity Identifiers changes on average every 15 minutes, and needs the Daily Tracing Key to be correlated to the user. This reduces the risk of privacy loss from advertising them.
- Proximity identifiers obtained from other devices are processed exclusively on the device.
- Users decide whether to contribute to contact tracing.
- If diagnosed with COVID-19, users consent to sharing Diagnosis Keys with the server.
- Users have transparency into their participation in contact tracing.
It is encouraging to see that technology leaders are coming forward to address one of the world's most pressing problems. It is only through the power of technology that the world can slow the spread of COVID-19 virus.
Notably, Apple and Google power the smartphones on a worldwide scale and a joint solution to combat the issue seems like the step in the right direction. The worldwide accessibility will be the key here, and thus the software setup in development will be interoperable between the two prevailing smartphone platforms.
Importantly, both companies have also decided to openly publish information about the work for others to analyze. This will allow other technology companies to develop on-ground solutions to fight the COVID-19 spread across the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the globe sending billions into lockdown. Since the first recorded case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, there have been 1,698,626 confirmed cases, 102,773 deaths, and 341,589 people have recovered at the time of writing this article.
India's COVID-19 count has crossed 7,000-mark today. The states have confirmed over 1,000 cases in the last 24 hours. According to the ministry of health and welfare, Coronavirus virus has caused 200 deaths in India. India is currently under 21-day nationwide lockdown till April 14. The lockdown could be extended till April 30 to prevent the spread of the virus.