Coronavirus: Apple and Google’s plan to track covid-19 from your phone

Coronavirus: Apple and Google’s plan to track covid-19 from your phone

Two tech giants seal an alliance to track the coronavirus … And all from your phone.

Apple and Google announced Friday that they are developing a joint system to alert people if they have recently contacted others who tested positive for covid-19.

The two giants indicated that, initially, they will help applications that are already used for these purposes to work efficiently, but that their ultimate goal is to do without them and create simpler mechanisms.

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In the opinion of both companies, the approach will respect privacy issues and people would participate voluntarily and anonymously.

The contact tracking method would work through the use of Bluetooth signals from smartphones that would be used in an encrypted data mechanism to alert potential risks of contagion.

Smartphones can be used to quickly and automatically determine if someone has been in contact with someone who is ill.

And, according to the companies, neither GPS location data nor personal information would be recorded.

“Privacy, transparency and consent are paramount in this effort and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with stakeholders,” they said in a joint statement.

“We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze,” they added.

United States President Donald Trump , however, indicated that his government needed time to consider the development of the technology.

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“It is very interesting, but many people are concerned with individual freedom,” he said during a White House press conference.

The Data Protection Supervisor of the European Union, for his part, was more positive towards the idea.

“The initiative will require further evaluation. However, after a quick look, it appears to tick the right boxes in terms of user choice, data protection by design and pan-European interoperability,” he said.

Beyond privacy concerns, others have noted that the success of the initiative will depend on testing enough people for covid-19, something that doesn’t happen in many countries.

Applications to track covid-19

Apple and Google are behind the two operating systems with which the vast majority of the world’s smartphones work.

Some countries, such as Singapore, Israel, South Korea, and Poland, are already using people’s phones to issue coronavirus contagion alerts.

Other health authorities, such as those in the United Kingdom, France and Germany, are working on their own initiatives.

According to reports, various US states they are also about to adopt an application.

That’s why Apple and Google aim to bring consistency to all of this by allowing existing applications to adapt to include their joint solution.

This would make the apps interoperable, so contact tracking would continue to work as people travel abroad and come into contact with people using a different tool.

If successful, the scheme could help countries relax border confinements and restrictions .

Records by phone

Apple and Google have released details of the crypto specifications they plan to use to safeguard privacy and details of the role that Bluetooth will play.

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The two companies hope to initially launch in mid-May a mechanism called a software building block or application programming interface, which would allow third-party applications to be synchronized.

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