Apple and Google team up to contact trace Covid-19

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Daily US Times: Two US tech giant Google and Apple jointly developing technology to alert people if they have recently come into contact with others found to be infected with the coronavirus.

The companies hope to initially help third-party contact-tracing apps run efficiently, but ultimately, to encourage the practice, they aim to do away with the need to download dedicated apps.

Both companies believe their approach – designed to keep users, whose participation would be voluntary, anonymous – addresses privacy concerns.

Their contact-tracing method would work by using a smartphone’s Bluetooth signals to determine to whom the owner had recently been in proximity for long enough to have established contagion a risk.

If one of those people later tested positive for coronavirus, the original handset owner will get a warning.

No GPS location data or personal information would be recorded in the process.

A joint statement published from Apple and Google said: “Privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance in this effort and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.”

“We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyse,” the statement added.

President Donald Trump said his administration needed time to consider the development.

”It’s very interesting, but a lot of people worry about it in terms of a person’s freedom,” the president said during a White House press conference, ””We’re going to take… a very strong look at it, and we’ll let you know pretty soon.”

But the Data Protection Supervisor of European Union sounded more positive, saying: “The initiative will require further assessment, however, after a quick look it seems to tick the right boxes as regards user choice, data protection by design and pan-European interoperability.”

Others have noted that the success of the venture may depend on getting enough people tested.

Google is the company behind Android, and Apple is the developer of iOS. The two operating systems power the vast majority of smartphones in use.

Some countries – including South Korea, Singapore, Poland and Israel- are already using people’s handsets to issue coronavirus contagion alerts.

Other health authorities – including Germany, France, and the UK – are working on initiatives of their own. And some municipal governments in the US are reportedly about to adopt a third-party app.

Google and Apple aim to bring coherence to all this by allowing existing third-party apps to be retrofitted to include their solution.

This would make the apps interoperable, so contact tracing would continue to work as people travelled overseas and came into contact with people using a different tool.

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