Apple Inc. and Google announced on April 24 that the privacy protection for its upcoming “contact-tracing” tool for the coronavirus was being updated and will be launched by the next week. The companies said that “stronger” protection to the early version of the tool is being introduced that will now limit the recording time that an individual is exposed to the COVID-19 patient for up to a maximum of 30 minutes. These changes are made after discussion with the governments and public health app developers to limit sharing excessive private health information.
In an official statement released on the website, Apple said, “Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread”. It further added, “Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.” Speaking about the update being added to the tool, the company wrote on the official website, “Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy”.
In partnership with the White House, @fema, and @CDCgov, @Apple has released a #COVID19 app to help you stay informed and protect your health during the spread of COVID-19.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 30, 2020
Download from the App Store and visit https://t.co/AvWscEL5l6! https://t.co/atve0GO2T6
Further, the companies announced that the smartphone’s Bluetooth data would now be encrypted which will make it nearly impossible to get hacked. The new technology, known as the Exposure Notification which was revealed two weeks ago, will be introduced to the iOS and Android operating systems which will alert the user in case they are exposed to the potential COVID-19 infected person. Also, it will be launched around mid-May post the release of the beta version to the developers. The companies notified on the official website that the official apps “will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.”
In a more robust functionality solution, the companies would prompt the users to participate in the interaction, if they choose to opt-in, they will need to input if they had tested positive to the disease into the system. Therefore, such individuals, according to Apple, will be added to a positive diagnosis list and the system will notify other people when they’re in the vicinity with these patients.