Google, Apple join forces to activate contact tracing across your smartphones

Apr 11, 2020

THE WORLD’S two biggest smartphone systems — Apple and Android — have teamed up in the fight against COVID-19.

Announced today (Manila time) on both the Google and the Apple websites, both iOS and Android will cook up software solutions to enable better contact tracing of persons who are infected with COVID-19.

Contact tracing — which has been cited as one of the key factors in containing the spread of COVID-19 in countries like South Korea — involves tracking who has been in close proximity with a person with SARS-CoV-2. It usually means asking a PUI about where they've been and whom they've talked to recently. With this partnership, Apple and Google hope to beef contact tracing up by keeping an eye on smartphones who've been around a PUI's smartphone.

The two companies said in a joint statement: “All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems.” Android and iOS combined have about 3 billion users.

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It will be rolled out in two phases. In the first phase, which will arrive mid-May, both iOS and Android will let both phone operating systems share anonymous information with each other when using apps downloaded from public health authorities.

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See how it works in the diagram below.

In the next phase, iOS and Android will bake in Bluetooth-based contact tracing into both of their operating systems. This means that contact tracing will work even if you don’t download the app.

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Mindful of privacy concerns, both companies stress that these are all opt-in. “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort,” they said in a joint statement.

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