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Apple, Google on COVID-19 tracing: Govts can’t force people to use this technology


By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: April 14, 2020 12:56:32 pm


Apple Google COVID19 tracing, Apple Google coronavirus tracing, Apple COVID 19 tracing App, Google Apple Bluetooth COVID tracing, Coronavirus tracking, Coronavirus contact tracing Apple and Google’s COVID-19 technology will start rolling out in May on most phones. (Image source: Reuters)

Apple and Google have said that governments will not be allowed to force users to rely on the upcoming Bluetooth-based contact tracing feature for COVID-19 that was announced last week. Apple and Google are working together to implement COVID-19 contact tracing at a software level on their smartphones. Now representatives from the two companies have revealed more details about how this will work.

Govts cannot force people to use this technology

When Apple and Google had first announced this technology on Friday, they had made it clear that this would be an ‘opt-in’ feature meaning the user would have to consent to this. But in order to confirm the diagnosis of someone being COVID-19 positive, a user would have to rely on an app, which will be from a recognised public health authority. Both companies have confirmed that the governments cannot make it compulsory for citizens to use these apps.

Read more: Apple, Google shake hands to help with COVID-19 contact tracing: How will it work?

Software push coming in May

According to a report in TechCrunch, the software update which will bring this feature will start rolling out in May. The report notes that Apple will roll out the update for most iOS devices, which as we’ve noted in the past will be easier given a majority of devices are already on the latest iOS 13 version. Google on its part revealed it will push out the update via the Play Services, and it will work on devices running Android 6.0 or newer. Google Play services are a core part of Android and a direct update means that it won’t be dependent on OEMs or carriers to push out the update.

Apple Google COVID19 tracing, Apple Google coronavirus tracing, Apple COVID 19 tracing App, Google Apple Bluetooth COVID tracing, Coronavirus tracking, Coronavirus contact tracing Google will push out the update as part of the Play Services. (Image source: AP)

Only Govt apps will use the APIs

Google and Apple will also be pushing out the API or application programming interface to support the contact-tracking software. But only COVID-19 tracing apps built by governments or public health authorities will be allowed to use these APIs. Further, users have to agree to opt-in to the system for COVID-19 tracing. Apple and Google again reiterated that names and locations will not be shared or stored, according to Bloomberg.

Explained: The contact tracing technology Apple and Google are jointly developing

Will work up to 15 feet away

As pointed out earlier, the system relies on Bluetooth technology to help with the COVID-19 tracing. According to Bloomberg, the companies revealed that the system would record contact when smartphone users are within “a couple of feet of each other for up to 10 minutes” or within 15 feet of each other.

On Privacy, data storage

As it was revealed earlier, the data will be processed on the device itself, though it will be ‘relayed’ through servers run by the health organisations, but not stored in any centralised database, according to TechCrunch.

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Updated: April 14, 2020 — 10:17 pm

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