Updated: April 16, 2020 10:06:21 am
Apple and Google have said that the COVID-19 contact tracing technology, which will be rolled out to Android and iOS smartphones in May, won’t remain in the devices forever. Both companies have said once the coronavirus pandemic is over, the tracing technology will be turned off. Last week, Apple and Google announced a Bluetooth-based feature, which would alert users if they had come in contact with a COVID-19 positive patient. The feature would work irrespective of whether someone was on an Android or iOS device.
The feature has raised privacy concerns as well. According to Reuters, Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “Apple and Google have a lot of work to do to convince a rightfully skeptical public that they are fully serious about the privacy and security of their contact tracing efforts.”
“I urgently want to know how Apple and Google will assure that consumers’ privacy interests are strongly balanced with the legitimate needs of public health officials during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “A public health crisis cannot be a pretense to pave over our privacy laws or legitimise tech companies’ intrusive data collection about American’s personal lives.”
Apple and Google have both said they will not be collecting personal information when relying on this contact tracing feature. The companies also said that in order to confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19, a patient would have to rely on an app built by a government organisation or public authority, which was working to control the pandemic. Only these apps will have access to the COVID-19 tracking APIs or application programming interfaces.
The two companies said that governments cannot force users to rely on this technology in order to do coronavirus contact tracing. The feature will also be an opt-in one, meaning the user will have to consent for the feature, and allow the contact based tracing.
Apple and Google will rely on Bluetooth technology for this COVID-19 tracing. When two users meet, their phones will exchange Bluetooth tracer beacons and these will be updated daily. If one of them tests positive and enters the data on their phone, the person or persons who came in contact with them will get an alert saying they were in touch with someone who has the virus. Both Apple and Google say the alert will not reveal the name or identity of the person who has the disease.
With inputs from Reuters
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