Apple and Google partner up to launch a “Contact Tracing” tool to trace the spread of COVID-19 through helping individuals determine if they have been exposed to someone infected with the Coronavirus.
Apple and Google’s contact tracing tool uses Bluetooth technology to detect whether users have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the Coronavirus.
This new technology deploys Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons, which will be transmitted to other nearby devices via Bluetooth.
Apple also published a series of whitepapers that contain details and specifications on the new technology.
How “Contact Tracing” Works
According to the overview of the tool, a user who tested positive for the virus enters the test result in an app from a public health authority. If the infected user gets in contact with another user, their phones exchange anonymous identifier beacons that rotate every 15 minutes and contain no personally identifiable information.
With the infected user’s consent, the last 14 days of keys for their broadcast beacons to the cloud will be uploaded to the cloud.
Then, the affected user’s phone periodically downloads the broadcast beacon keys of everyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in their region, to find a match with an infected user’s anonymous identifier beacons.
After that, the affected user receives a notification with information about what to do next.
Both Google and Apple state that extra privacy measures are taken for this tool; it is explicitly stated that the contact Tracing tool:
• Requires explicit user consent,
• Does not collect personally identifiable information, or user location data
• Does not release the list of people you have been in contact with.
• Does not reveal the identity of the people who test positive to other users, Google or Apple.
• Will only be used for contact tracing by public health authorities for the COVID-19 pandemic management.
Even though both Apple and Google emphasized the safety of this tool, many are still concerned with the security of the tool and potential invasions of privacy and abuse.
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