Apple and Google have partnered up to help governments with contact tracing in the fight aginst COVID-19. As contact transmission is the leading cause of infections, it’s clear why the two biggest tech companies want to partner up.
The announcement includes brand new API’s for iOS and Android which is expected to launch on April 28th, in what we know will be an iOS and Android update. Apple has stated they expect to make this available on as many Apple devices as possible, hinting that we will get an iOS 12 and iOS 13 update too. Apple stops short of the specifics of the API. However, implementation could range from logging if someone has tested positive for COVID-19 and who they were in immediate contact with using the new API’s perhaps built into the stock Contacts app. Or, support for 3rd party developers to include similar features where the data is sent to Apple, instead of to the app itself.
Apple and Google also say that they will introduce new “Bluetooth-based contact tracing” which will be built into the underlying OS for those who OPT-in. Apple and Google also from heavy public backlash have revised their privacy guidelines, including a rename, and over the top detail in regards to how the system will work.
From the sounds of it, if two people are OPT’ed into the program, that information is sent to Apple and Google to note those two people have been in contact, incase one is caught with COVID-19.
First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores. Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms.
This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.
Both companies also published a new webpage on Apple’s website that talks about privacy. The page includes three links, one to the Bluetooth aspect of this tracing technology and how user data is preserved. The 2nd includes cryptography specifications, and thirdly the privacy of the overall API framework.