Apple and Google Collaborates to Develop COVID-19 Contact Tracing App
Tech giants, Google and Apple are usually considered business rivals, but with the advent of the novel coronavirus that has been plaguing most countries across the globe, these two firms announced on Friday that they would collaborate in developing a contact tracing technologyto assist health agencies and governments in identifying and limiting the spread of the COVID-19.According to CNBC, this service will be available for both IOS and Android users when it kicks off.
How the app will work and why it’s needed
The contact tracing tech when it becomes available will be extremely useful in some countries where testing kits are inadequate. It will also enhance the control and management of the outbreak from spreading rapidly and in turn reduce the number of casualties.
The two corporations have released a set of documents and white papers, including specifications of Bluetooth and cryptography.
A report of Scientists4Wired, explains what the tech giants plan to do, “the companies will be working on a ‘comprehensive’ solution that will include APIs and OS-level integration that will enable contact tracing via Bluetooth. The solution will be rolled out in two different phases.”
Apple CEO, Tim Cook via a Tweet said: “Contact tracing can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and can be done without compromising user privacy. We’re working with [Google] to help health officials harness Bluetooth technology in a way that also respects transparency and consent.”
When one downloads this contact tracing app, itwill identify individuals who have been diagnosed with the virus and inform people who have been in close proximity to them to self-isolate or take other precautions established by experts and authorities.
Concerns about privacy and data protection
The idea of employing digital surveillance seems a great one, but at the same time raises a lot of privacy concerns and questions about its effectiveness
For the app to work optimally, a lot of people will have to download and use it in a particular region, and this has created fears in some quarters that the government might force citizens to use the app in a bid to get its full benefits. However, the companies’ representatives have come out to say that they won’t allow the app to be compulsory.
According to the companies, user privacy will be maintained and the implementation will be done in two steps. In May, they will release application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow interoperability between iOS and Android devices from public health authorities. The apps will be officially made available for users to download from their app stores.
Secondly, in months to come, Apple and Google will work to broaden the Bluetooth-based tracing platform. This will be by developing the functionality into the basic platforms. "This is a more robust solution than an API and would 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," says a joint statement from the two firms.A lot of concerns have been raised on potential abuse of the system; States may use the COVID-19 pandemic as a cover to monitor people’s data or for surveillance expansion.Though Google and Apple are promising that this contact tracing tech will be developed in such a way that it would provide information without violating user privacy.