Apple and Google today revealed a rare partnership to add technology to iPhones and their derivatives that will alert users if they have come into contact with a person with COVID-19. People must opt in to the system, but it has the potential to cover roughly a third of the world’s population.
The technology, known as contact-tracing, is designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus by telling users they should quarantine or isolate themselves after contact with an infected individual.
Tf a user tests positive for Covid-19, and adds that data to their public health app, users who they came into close proximity with over the previous several days will be notified of their contact. This period could be 14 days, but health agencies can set the time range.
In the coming months, both companies will add the technology directly into their operating systems so this contact-tracing software works without having to download an app. Users must opt in, but this approach means many more people can be included. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have about 3 billion users between them, over a third of the world’s population.
Some politicians and regulators have been warning that citizens’ privacy should be protected.
“We caution that actions taken to contain spreading of coronavirus must also preserve the right to privacy held by each and every American,” members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, wrote in a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump. “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.”
MacDailyNews Take: From what we’ve seen, the proposed system will protect user privacy. Consent is required and no location data is not collected. The system also won’t notify users of who they came into contact with or where that contact occurred. Neither company has access to the data, either. So, basically, with this COVID-19 contact tracing system, it’s obvious that Apple took the lead here as personal data looks to be well-protected. Google must secretly hate it. It’s like a vampire signing on to manufacture wooden stakes and tanning beds.