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Apple and Google Join Hands to Develop COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology

UTC by Bhushan Akolkar · 4 min read
Apple and Google Join Hands to Develop COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology
Photo: Unsplash

The two tech giants said that they will use a Bluetooth-based technology to accurately detect and inform people who have been in close proximity with COVID-19 patients. Apple and Google plan to work in coordination with health officials and government bodies.

The two arch-rivals of the tech industry – Apple and Google – have finally come together for a bigger cause now. Yes, it is about fighting against the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

As per the latest announcement, Apple and Google are jointly working on a technology that can help people know if they have come in contact with any COVID-19 positive patient. The two companies will use the traditional Bluetooth technology to help health agencies and governments reduce the spread. Apple has assured that user security and privacy will be central to this new technology.

What Apple and Google Will Offer

Besides, the contact tracing method will use the smartphone’s Bluetooth signals. Using these signals users can know if they have been in contact with the owner of the handset. If the owner turns COVID positive in the later stage, all the users in their close proximity will receive a notification. Moreover, the technology won’t record any personal information or GPS location of the handset. In a joint statement, Apple and Google said:

“Privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance in this effort and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze”.

When it comes to mobile operating systems, both Apple and Google together capture a dominant share of the market with their iOS and Android systems. Both the tech giants plan to release their APIs in May while ensuring that the technology is interoperable between iOS and Android devices. Besides, they will also release the framework for public health apps to manage the entire functionality.

Reportedly, both these giants will embed this technology directly in the OS. Thus, this technology will also work without the need for downloading an app.

Global organizations Share Their Opinion

The number of Coronavirus cases in the U.S. and the U.K. has exploded over the last few weeks. While the government institutions are using all its state machinery to contain the spread, a co-ordinated approach with the industry players is the need of the hour. Apple’s and Google’s coming together is a welcome move at this stage. In its statement, Apple wrote:

“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life”.

The U.S. President Donald Trump has also acknowledged the initiative. However, he has asked for some time for his administration to consider it. President Trump said:

“It’s very interesting, but a lot of people worry about it in terms of a person’s freedom. We’re going to take… a very strong look at it, and we’ll let you know pretty soon.”

On the other hand, some regulators and lawmakers have raised concerns over user data privacy. In a letter to President Trump, a group of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives said:

“We caution that actions taken to contain the spreading of coronavirus must also preserve the right to privacy held by each and every American. Google’s colossal stores of data on daily movements of Americans, coupled with the might of local, state, and federal governments is an alarming prospect.”

The European Union’s Data Protection Supervisor has responded positively, saying:

The coming together of these two tech giants will set up new precedence in the business world.

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