Apple and Google are building coronavirus tracking tech into iOS and Android

Apple and Google working together

The two companies are working together, representing most of the phones used around the world.

Two of the tech industry’s biggest players are working together to fight the coronavirus, announcing a new set of tools that could come to a majority of smartphones around the world.

The new technology, outlined in white papers published by Apple and Google Friday, relies on Bluetooth wireless radio technology to help phones communicate with one another, ultimately warning people about people they’d come in contact with who are infected with the coronavirus.

Apple and Google plan to initially release these tools in May, and then further enhance their iOS and Android software later this year to help more people

“Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments, and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID‑19 and accelerate the return of everyday life,” the companies said in a joint statement.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Friday touted the project on Twitter, saying the two companies “are committed to working together on these efforts.” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook added in his own tweet that the new efforts “respects transparency and consent.”

Apple and Google’s efforts are just the latest by tech giants to help mitigate the effects from the novel coronavirus. The pandemic’s forced nearly all Americans under shelter-in-place orders in hopes of slowing the virus’s spread and reducing the strain on hospitals.

                                             LOOK @ THE TWITTE


Tim Cook
Contact tracing can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and can be done without compromising user privacy. We’re working with @sundarpichai & @Google to help health officials harness Bluetooth technology in a way that also respects transparency & consent. https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2020/04/apple-and-google-partner-on-covid-19-contact-tracing-technology/ 
Sundar Pichai

To help public health officials slow the spread of , Google & @Apple are working on a contact tracing approach designed with strong controls and protections for user privacy. @tim_cook and I are committed to working together on these efforts.https://blog.google/inside-google/company-announcements/apple-and-google-partner-covid-19-contact-tracing-technology 

Big tech companies in particular have been working on initiatives around the coronavirus since it struck. Verily, the life sciences arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, last month launched a website that gives people in California information about virus testing. The website, developed in partnership with the White House, lets people fill in symptoms and complete an online screener.

Google also last month said it’s committing more than $800 million to help small businesses and crisis responders dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Apple and Google have both also began making and distributing protective equipment for healthcare workers.

Now, with this new coronavirus tracing technology, two of Silicon Valley’s biggest rivals are hoping to help create apps that will help us regain a sense of normalcy as we wait for a vaccine or other ways to fight the virus.

“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,” the companies said.

Contact tracing

Apple and Google’s technology is meant to support contact tracing, which historically has been a manual process in which health care workers painstakingly comb through a patient’s history to figure out who they were near and may have exposed.

Apps could potentially speed up that process. Someone who’s marked as having coronavirus in an app on their phone could then wirelessly transmit alerts to anyone they come in contact with, potentially leading people to take extra precautions or self-quarantine in order to slow any further spread.

One existing project designed to do this is MIT’s Private Automated Contact Tracing, or PACT. The project, which hasn’t been released yet, is designed similarly to Apple and Google’s effort. Other contact-tracing apps, including COVID Watch and Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing, have also been developed to deal with the pandemic.

Already, state and local governments appear to be warming to these ideas. But there are potential privacy concerns.

Among them, the American Civil Liberties Union warned in a report earlier this week that contact tracing apps could lead to increased government surveillance, particularly if data isn’t properly protected. The organization also noted that GPS and Bluetooth signals can sometimes be inaccurate or untrustworthy, further muddying these app’s effectiveness.

While we’ll have to wait until Apple and Google begin publicly releasing their technology to ultimately tell whether it’s reliable, the online privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation noted both companies highlighted protecting data and people’s consent as part of the project. “We appreciate that Apple and Google have made a commitment to protect privacy,” said Kurt Opsahl, the EFF’s deputy executive director and lead lawyer.


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