The goal is “to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus,” say the two companies.
Apple and Google announced Friday, April 10, a partnership to allow digital tracking of individuals who have been close to people infected with the coronavirus to limit the spread of the disease while maintaining confidentiality.
“Google and Apple announce a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, putting user privacy and security at the heart of the design”, the two tech giants said in a blog post.
Smartphones with iOS software from Apple or Android from Google will be able to exchange information via Bluetooth, in order to monitor human contacts (“contact tracing”) and alert other users. From May, users of iOS and Android devices will be able to share content from official applications of public health authorities, downloadable from the online stores of the two groups. Apple and Google plan to develop “a broader contact tracking platform […] which would allow more people to participate, if they choose to join. “
The operating systems of the two rival groups are the most used on smartphones across the planet. “Given the urgency of the need, the objective is to implement this solution in two stages while maintaining solid protections to ensure respect for the privacy of users”, promised Apple and Google. “Tracking contacts can help slow the spread of Covid-19 and can be done without compromising user privacy”, wrote Tim Cook on Twitter.
Several experts and association were however puzzled about the effectiveness of the new tools from Google and Apple. “It is difficult to know what use they intend to make” Ryan Calo, a researcher at the University of Washington and affiliated with the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford, wonders the data obtained. “If they think that digital tracking of contacts will allow people to stop social distancing, I am skeptical”, indicates Ryan Calo.