A new document published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) outlines what it has determined as the critical features for digital contact tracing apps. Notably, the document recommends a system for COVID-19 contact tracing that leaves the door open to the project backed by Apple and Google.
Public health organizations across the country often rely on CDC guidance for purchasing decisions.
In the latest CDC publication, the group cites the “PACT protocol” as a an example of the recommended method for using “Bluetooth enabled proximity tracking” while maintaining privacy. As CNBC reported earlier this week, Apple and Google, in developing a contact tracing system, took several ideas from PACT, an open-source protocol developed under the leadership of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
At their most basic, contact tracing apps, like those currently deployed in Singapore and Australia, use signals from smartphones to trace who an infected person has been in contact with, so those people can be isolated or tested.
Two broad approaches to digital contact tracing apps have been used. One, often called “decentralized,” is anonymous and doesn’t require a phone number or email address to use. The other approach, often called a “centralized system,” feeds infection data to public health authorities so they can reach out manually to people who may have been infected.
Apple and Google are among those who support the decentralized approach… Consumer-facing apps, downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores, are described by the CDC as “proximity tracing,” though the companies prefer to call it “exposure notification.”