Friday, August 12, 2022

Google and Apple launches ‘COVID-19 exposure notifications’ on your phone

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Apple and Google have collaborated together to build the ‘COVID-19 exposure notification’ feature in order to notify us whenever we come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person.

Do really Apple and Google have silently installed COVID-19 trackers on your phone?

The ‘COVID-19 exposure notifications’ has been rolled out in both iOS and Android devices. But, they haven’t installed any tracker on your phone. This feature requires a supporting health app to work which means that an app or service has not been installed silently on your device.

Unfortunately, the ‘COVID-19 tracker’ made by the tech-giants are disabled by default. This new feature remains disabled because it doesn’t have a supporting app in India. The Aarogya Setu app made by the Indian government has an in-built contact-tracing API already. One of the reasons why the government hasn’t shown interest to link with this new feature on your phones is likely that the Government doesn’t want to rely on these APIs because of their strict privacy protocols which may result in losing control.

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How can you access the feature on your phone?

If you’re an Android user: Go to Settings > Click on Google > The first option shows ‘Covid-19 Exposure Notifications’.

If you’re an iPhone user: Go to Settings > Privacy > Health > The first feature on top shows ‘Covid-19 Exposure Logging’.

How does this contact-tracing feature work?

Your phone and the phones around you will work in the background to exchange these privacy-preserving random IDs via Bluetooth. You do not need to have the app open for this process to take place. Your phone periodically checks all the random IDs associated with positive COVID-19 cases against its own list.

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If there’s a match, the app will notify you with further instructions from your public health authority on how to keep you and the people around you safe.

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Are your privacy secured, if you use this contact-tracing feature?

The ‘COVID-19 exposure notification’ feature is very much secure and it doesn’t trace you or your location. To help ensure these random IDs can’t be used to identify you or your location, they change every 10-20 minutes.

  • You can control whether you want to receive COVID-19 Exposure Notifications or not.
  • The Exposure Notifications System doesn’t track your location. It uses Bluetooth, which can be used to detect if two devices are near each other — without revealing where the devices are.
  • Neither Google, Apple, nor other users can see your identity. Only, Public health authorities may ask you for additional information, such as a phone number, to contact you with additional guidance.
  • Only public health authorities can get access to this technology, only if their apps meet specific criteria around privacy, security, and data use.

There has been a widespread rumour spread through social media, mainly WhatsApp and Facebook, that your privacy is not secured as Apple and Google have inserted sensor or tracker on your phone. This is not true. The contact-tracing feature only works if you have a supporting app from the public health authorities. Along with this, it uses random IDs so that you or your location can’t be identified.

Do check out:

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Rahul Roy
Rahul Roy
I am a computer guy by profession and a sports fanatic by choice.


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