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Apple, Google collaborate for COVID-19 contact tracing

Both Google and Apple have devised a plan to launch the contact tracing technology for users in two stages. In the first stage, both companies will introduce the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) in May to enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. Contact tracing is the process of figuring out the people an infected person has been in contact with. To put things in perspective, this would mean that both Android and iOS will be able to work together for the contact tracing tech. Once the APIs are out, both Android and iOS COVID-19 contact tracing apps will be available for users to download via the Google Play Store and the App Store, respectively. The apps will use short-range Bluetooth and user data to develop the contact tracing network and help people figure out whether or not they have been in the proximity of Corona virus-infected people. This data will be taken by apps from governments and users will have to get these apps to tell if they are COVID-19 positive or negative. The Bluetooth-based contact tracing will track people with the apps in the Bluetooth range and save the information in the database. If a person gets infected, he or she will have to notify the app so that the app can tell others in the vicinity of the same in the previous days. Following this, they can use the health official apps to check symptoms and finally consult a doctor to get tested for the same.

While the GPS-based contact tracing makes use of a user’s physical location, the Bluetooth one collects information of nearby devices in every 5 minutes and stores it. Additionally, the Bluetooth-based tech doesn’t identify users and stores their data in the form of anonymous keys. This way, some privacy can be maintained. The second phase will involve the integration of the contact tracing tech in their respective OS. With this, users won’t be required to install a standalone app. However, they would still be required to opt-in for this feature for it to work. To bring out the joint venture, Apple and Google haven’t forgotten the privacy and security of users and suggest that transparency and user consent will be of ‘utmost’ priority. Both Apple and Google aim to help people fight the ongoing Corona virus outbreak and are still in the process of fully developing the tech. It can have its share of hits and misses but it can still prove beneficial.


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