Two tech giants are merging hands with each other for a common cause to use their technology to fight against this deadly Coronvirus pandemic, now spread across the globe. To stop COVID-19, Google and Apple will begin rolling out the APIs of their new tool for Android and iOS apps, starting mid-May.
They are doing this joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
Apple will make the feature available to all iOS 13 devices and Google will update Google Play Services with the new software on all Android devices running 6.0 Marshmallow and above.
The first phase, which starts from May, of this joint venture, includes the use of contact tracing APIs, which will be made available to verified public health authorities to be incorporated into their official COVID-19 apps.
Then in the next phase, 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 will 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.
Using Bluetooth, the technology will transmit anonymous and randomized IDs over short ranges to determine whether the user has been in close contact with anyone infected with the COVID-19 virus, by detecting persons who already tested positive for the virus. If the system detects any such device in close proximity, then the user is notified to take preventive measures.
Obviously, this raises privacy concerns, but Google and Apple have assured that they are taking all possible precautions to prevent misuse of the new system by restricting it only to authorized public health organizations in different countries. Also the data will be decentralized, making it difficult for governments to conduct surveillance.
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