Apple and Google have announced a joint effort to help combat the coronavirus outbreak by introducing contact tracing via an operating system-level framework that can be used in building an app to facilitate contact tracing.
Contact tracing refers to a method that tracks whether individuals have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Medical professionals have identified it as a way to keep people from contracting the virus from others and to prevent infections.
Apple and Google have maintained that their framework is designed to maintain privacy and only be used for the current health crisis at hand. However, many privacy experts remain skeptical.
Here’s what we know about the proposal so far with information provided by both Apple and Google.
- Contract tracing will be implemented with explicit user consent only and representatives recently stated the government can’t force use of any app that’s using the framework. However, the success of contract tracing largely hinges on everyone’s participation.
- It doesn’t use location data. Instead, it uses Bluetooth beaconing technology to detect proximity between devices.
- Rolling Proximity Identifiers change every 15 minutes and Tracing Keys change daily.
- Data processing (and most data) is kept on the devices.
- Neither Google, Apple, nor other users will know what users have tested positive, that information is the only kind that leaves the device and will be used “by public health authorities for COVID-19 pandemic management.”
- Because the framework is on the operating system level, both Android and iOS devices can use it, but it also requires operating system changes to support this framework, which if changed, can’t be revoked.
Details are likely to continue to come and it’s yet to be seen whether the public at large will use any app that built using this framework or whether the privacy and surveillance fears will prevent mass adoption.