Apple and Google have decided to work together to create contact tracing technology that aims to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The software will allow users to opt into logging other phones they have been in close contact with.
This rare collaboration of the two tech companies will help get potentially infected individuals into testing or quarantine more quickly and reliably.
Health experts seem to agree to this new technology as they believe that such tracing will play a vital role in managing the virus once lockdown orders are lifted.
Michael Veale, University College London legal lecturer involved in European contact tracing system DP3T said: “With Apple and Google, you get all the public health functions you need with a decentralized and privacy-friendly app,”
The two companies started developing the technology two weeks ago to streamline technical differences between Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android.
The way the software works is that users’ phones with the technology will emit unique Bluetooth signals. Phones within about six feet can record anonymous information about encounters.
People who test positive for the virus can opt to send an encrypted list of phones they came near to Apple and Google, which will trigger alerts to potentially exposed users to seek more information.
Apple and Google said their contact tracing system will not track GPS location. The information gathered from the individuals phones will be encrypted to protect their identities.
“To their credit, Apple and Google have announced an approach that appears to mitigate the worst privacy and centralization risks,” said Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Apple and Google plan to release software updates in the coming months so that users do not need a separate app to log nearby phones.
Google said the tools and updates would not be available where its services are blocked, such as in China or on unofficial Android devices. Apple will distribute the technology as an update to its iPhone operating system.
This new technology will be very helpful as reduces the amount of time it takes for contact tracing through the use of our mobile phones.