Apple-Google contact tracing solution first look; no GPS data collection

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Last month, Apple and Google announced their plans to create a COVID-19 contact tracing solution through an unprecedented partnership. The solution, the companies said, would help governments and health agencies to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Read in detail: What is contact tracing and why do Apple and Google want to do it?

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, contact tracing refers to the process of searching for and reaching out to the contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Apple and Google said their solution would serve as an alternative to the conventionally slow and labor-intensive process, accessible only to official public health authorities.

As the companies outlined their plans to leverage the Bluetooth sensors embedded in 2.5 billion active Android devices and 1.5 billion active iOS devices for contact tracing, privacy experts expressed concerns about the implications of personal data collection.

Also see: People are using this free Google tool to make custom COVID-19 maps

apple google contact tracing

Now, the tech giants have revealed the first version of their ‘Exposure Notification API’ to developers, clarifying that the solution would neither use nor allow the collection of GPS location data from any user. “Google and Apple put user privacy at the forefront of this exposure notification technology’s design and have established strict guidelines to ensure that privacy is safeguarded,” the companies said.

Key features of Apple and Google’s contact tracing solution

  • Explicit user consent required
  • Doesn’t collect or use location data from a user’s phone
  • Bluetooth beacons and keys don’t reveal user identity or location
  • User controls all data they want to share, and the decision to share it
  • People who test positive are not identified to other users, Google, or Apple
  • Will only be used for exposure notification by public health authorities for COVID-19 pandemic management

apple google contact tracing

The companies also said they would disable the exposure notification system on a regional basis when it is no longer needed. Users will also be able to turn it off at any time by uninstalling the contact tracing application or turning off exposure notification in device Settings.

Ishveena is a geospatial enthusiast and a veteran of creating and managing compelling digital content for organizations and individuals. When she is not making magic at her desk, you are likely to find her exploring nature, eating her way through life, or binge-watching funny animal videos.