Tech giants unite in COVID-19 smartphone effort
Google and Apple unveiled a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 while protecting user privacy.
Google and Apple unveiled a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19, with user privacy and security central to the design.
Since COVID-19 can end up transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread.
The joint Google-Apple initiative brings together the largest mobile operating systems in an effort to use smartphone location technology to track and potentially contain the global COVID-19 outbreak.
Public health authorities, universities, and non-governmental organizations around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.
Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.
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 the two companies will attempt to build this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.
They also said they will l openly publish information about their work for others to analyze.
As part of this partnership, Google and Apple are releasing draft technical documentation including bluetooth and cryptography specifications and framework documentation.