Global technology giants Apple and Google whose operating systems are being used in almost 99 percent of the smartphones announced that they would come up with a system to notify people if they come across COVID positive persons. The companies have said they would allow only public health authorities to use the technology.
Besides notifying the users about their proximity with COVID-19 positive persons, their other important goal is to ensure the privacy of the users and prevent governments from misusing the system to compile data on citizens. The system uses Bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.
However, according to International media reports, developers of official COVID-tracing apps in the various US states have opined that it was vital these tech companies allowed to use GPS location data in connection with the new contact tracing system, which could allow studying how virus outbreaks move and also to identify hotspots.
Also, there are apprehensions that Apple iPhones and Google Android phones switch off Bluetooth connections after some time for battery-saving and other reasons unless users remember to re-activate them. This situation might cause the user to miss recording the encounter with COVID-19 positive person.
Also, software companies who have developed contact tracing apps for state governments have said that they don't rely on the new technology of Apple and Google for the former's contact tracing apps.
Canada’s Alberta province, which does not collect GPS data, reportedly said it has no plans to adopt the Apple-Google system for its ABTraceTogether app.
Amid this, privacy experts have opined that the data of COVID-19 positive persons, if exposed, could lead to persons and businesses being ostracised causing panic among the infected persons as well as people coming in contact with them.
(With agency inputs)