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Apple and Google collaborate on a new API to help track Covid-19 transmission

The new Covid-19 contact-tracing API will depend on user opt-in, apparently. (Source: Google)
The new Covid-19 contact-tracing API will depend on user opt-in, apparently. (Source: Google)
Consumer tech has already been used for 'Covid-19 contact tracing' in Taiwan and South Korea already. Now, Google and Apple have jointly announced a new API to do the same using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It will apparently used voluntarily-donated, anonymized data on those infected with the virus to alert other users who may have been in transmission-range of them.
Deirdre O Donnell,
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Covid-19 contact tracing has gone wireless and online as of late: it is enacted via APIs and the apps that use them in some Asian countries. This tech-driven strategy is also reportedly to be adopted in other countries such as Germany, the UK, Czechia and Italy soon. These nations may develop their own respective implementations; however, Google and Apple may have rendered this unnecessary with their own API and Bluetooth LE service for the same purpose.

This new package could enable public and health authorities to release apps that gather data on Covid-19 cases in a given area and push notifications to others in the same region on applicable risks. This, frankly, sounds like a cause for alarm in all relevant parties on several pressing levels. However, the 2 software giants assert that this new Contact Tracing API is user-consent dependent.

Furthermore, the 2 companies insist that it does not require locational or personal information. Then again, it does demonstrably need proximity data - which, apparently, will remain on-device. Therefore, a list of those affected or potentially affected by Covid-19 will appear on the phone in some form, but will remain on it - according to Apple and Google at least.

Nevertheless, this new tool has met with opposition in the media already. For example, The Verge now disputes its efficacy and safety, not the least because of the strong influences of user uptake, confidence and consent that act on it. Nevertheless, this new API is to become available through a Google Play Services update, and via an update to iOS.

Google's outline of how the new API/BLE service works. (Source: Google)
Google's outline of how the new API/BLE service works. (Source: Google)
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Deirdre O'Donnell
Deirdre O'Donnell - Senior Tech Writer - 4034 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2018
I became a professional writer and editor shortly after graduation. My degrees are in biomedical sciences; however, they led to some experience in the biotech area, which convinced me of its potential to revolutionize our health, environment and lives in general. This developed into an all-consuming interest in more aspects of tech over time: I can never write enough on the latest electronics, gadgets and innovations. My other interests include imaging, astronomy, and streaming all the things. Oh, and coffee.
contact me via: LinkedIn
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 04 > Apple and Google collaborate on a new API to help track Covid-19 transmission
Deirdre O Donnell, 2020-04-11 (Update: 2020-04-11)