Apple and Google are collaborating to develop coronavirus-detecting technology. It will alert users if they have recently come into contact with those infected. The tech giants are teaming up to utilise existing Bluetooth technology in order to assess if a phone’s owner had been at risk.
Contact Tracing is designed to identify and alert phone users if they have come into contact with someone infected with coronavirus. The idea is that it identifies a risk and encourages the user to get tested as soon as possible to prevent further spread. Using smartphone technology, risk of infection can be identified rapidly. The Apple and Google collaboration is a force to be reckoned with. Between Apple, the developer behind iPhones, and Google, the company behind Android phones, the two systems encompass the majority of the world’s smartphones. Some countries are already using handheld devices to issue coronavirus risk alerts. Apple and Google want to offer their solution alongside third-party apps and make the apps interoperable. With this cross-technology, the likelihood of identifying coronavirus risk is even higher and thus more reliable. In the long-term, this initiative could help countries with their border restrictions and severity of lockdown.
People come into contact with each other. During this interaction, their smartphones automatically exchange an anonymous key code. If one of those individuals later tests positive for Covid-19, they declare their status in an app. After that information is declared, that individual’s phone will send their anonymous key code to a central database. In this central database, one can check for matching key codes. The person who interacted with them will receive an alert on their phone informing them that they have met someone who has tested positive. That person can then go and get tested at the earliest opportunity.
Privacy and Security
One of the biggest issues with this approach is the privacy and security concerns that it raises. Google and Apple have assured the public that no GPS location data nor personal information would be recorded. Any participation would be voluntary and, above all, anonymous. Government officials, including those in the White House and the European Union’s Data Protection Supervisor, are looking into the technology before it receives the green light. It is also highly dependent on people being proactive enough to get tested, to have the testing resources available and to be honest enough to declare their status as ‘positive’ on the app.