Today, Apple and Google have announced a joint effort to provide COVID-19 tracing technology to help health authorities around the world contain the spread of the virus and save lives. In the coming months, both companies will release APIs and build a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform.
When released, the technology will exchange contact information between devices via Bluetooth LE signals and send alerts via app if someone close has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Theoretically, when people are close, their smartphones will exchange identification key recording that they came in contact with each other. After that, whoever tests positive for coronavirus, the app which will send notification alerts to other people who the infected person was in close contact with, so that they too can self-isolate and get tested. The information will not be personally identifiable or share with anyone. The logs will be maintained for 14 days, after which they will be deleted from the devices.
Starting from May, Apple and Google will release APIs, which will allow interoperability between iOS and Android devices. Apps from the public health authorities will be officially available for download on App Store and Google Play which will take advantage of these APIs. Concurrent to that in the subsequent months, the tech giants will be jointly working on the development of a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform into their operating systems.
The official Apple announcement reads:
This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a, broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.
The announcement explains that the tracing technology is being built to assist overwhelmed governments and health authorities in their fight to control the spread of the virus. The nature of transmission from person to person is the idea behind tracing the people that an infected individual came into contact with, so that those people can be isolated and treated before they can transmit the virus to others. Furthermore, Apple and Google are also ensuring the protection of user privacy and security at all stages of the development of COVID-19 tracing technology and its use.
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.
In these unprecedented times, we are witnessing unprecedented decisions. Coronavirus has brought two rival tech giants together to combat a common threat that is impacting countless people around the world. Around the world, governments are working tirelessly to convince people, who violate lockdowns and social distancing rules, to stay home for their safety and their loved ones.
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.