Apple and Google have announced a covid-19 contact tracking platform. It could alert people if they’ve been exposed to the novel coronavirus. Contact tracing is a huge component in ending mass pandemic’stay-at-home’ orders.
Google and Apple are using Bluetooth LE signals for contact tracing. When two people are near each other, their phones can exchange an anonymous identification key, recording that they’ve had close contact. If one person is later diagnosed with covid-19, they can share that information through an app.
There are a lot of questions about how people will actually use the system. Here’s what we know so far so far.
The new coronavirus is spreading through the US. Several states have made emergency declarations. The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic.
An application programming interface (API) will make sure iOS and Android apps can trace users regardless of which operating system they’re using. But it will be restricted to official apps released by public health authorities on the iOS app store and Google Play store.
We do n’t know who’s working with Apple and Google right now, or what the apps will look like. A phone with app a could swap a key with app B, as long as they’re both using the API.
In the months after the launch, Google and Apple will be working on a more permanent solution. The apps will almost certainly reduce how many people use them.
Following the API, Google and Apple want to add contact tracing as a core iOS and Android feature. The method is a little vague for now, but the goal is that you’d opt in through something like your phone settings.
We’re not sure how Android’s fragmented ecosystem might complicate the release process. Google could plausibly push a fast update through the play store instead of waiting for carriers to roll it out. We also do n’t know if individual government apps might ask for more invasive permissions like location tracking.
Ios has included support since the 2011 iPhone 4S, and the Android platform added support in 2012. But unless you’ve got a very old phone, you’re probably all right.
If you test positive for covid-19, the system is supposed to upload your last 14 days of anonymous’keys’ to a server. Other people’s phones will automatically download the key lists.
The app will need to make sure people are really infected. A troll could cause chaos by falsely claiming to have covid-19 we do n’t know exactly how this will work.
Sharing your keys is supposed to be voluntary, but the exact process is another thing we’re waiting to see. That seems to mean actually approving an upload, not just granting blanket consent when you install the app.
Google’s sample alert reads,’you have recently been exposed to someone who has tested positive for covid-19′. The information will be provided by whichever health authority is offering the app, and we do n’t know what it might include.
The more time you’ve spent with an infected person, the greater the risk. The documentation includes references to duration measured in 5-minute intervals it could offer a general risk assessment without an exact number, which would provide a greater level of anonymity.