Apple and Google have formed a partnership to use smartphone technology to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The new software, which both companies want to add to the phones, would allow wireless Bluetooth technology to detect coronavirus carriers that could infect people. The idea is to help national governments introduce so-called contact tracing, which will run on both iPhones and Android phones. Using Apple or Google technology, an app would track contacts and information about people it meets in close proximity. They would alert people if they had contact with someone who had been infected with a coronavirus.
The collaboration between the two largest smartphone companies would help health authorities track the spread of the disease without, ideally, infringing users privacy. Google and Apple are working together to help health authorities in the US and other European and Middle Eastern countries slow the spread of COVID-19. Apple and Google have changed the debate by announcing that they have teamed up to bring a comprehensive set of technologies and tools to market to facilitate consent – coronavirus contact tracking. With a strong focus on privacy, the companies plan to use Bluetooth technology, which users can turn freely on or off, to allow mobile users to voluntarily use the app to provide information about their contact with people they have infected with coronavirus. The devices that use this app send a clear signal to other nearby devices that are in the vicinity of the infected person to identify the person and location of that person. This could help people find people even if they don’t know their name. In May, the two companies will release a software tool for developers to use Bluetooth signals for contact tracking. The collaboration between Apple and Google over the use of Bluetooth technology in the fight against coronavirus got a huge boost when, in a rare case of cooperation, they said they would incorporate the technology into iPhones and Android phones to enable a widely used technology – the tracing of contacts while respecting users privacy. On 10 April, the US technology companies Apple and Google issued a joint statement announcing their plans to integrate Bluetooth-based coronavirus contact tracking technology into the iOS and Android operating systems.
Based on the new functionality, the app will act as an alarm and warn if a smartphone is among the devices marked as infected or if someone tests positive for coronavirus. Dr Michael O’Brien, founding member of the Covid Watch team, said: „Apple – Google’s involvement has been very, very helpful.” Tracking contacts can be seen as an important step in enabling society to reopen shelters and places of order. On Friday, Apple and Google announced plans to notify people via smartphone — on an opt-in basis — if they come into contact with someone with the coronavirus and share their whereabouts and other personal information with the government. Companies claim that the new technology will maintain strong privacy protections for users, but its implementation has had the opposite effect. This is the first time in history that people have been required to share information about the whereabouts of users with government agencies. Apple and Google have driven a wedge between the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the European Union (EU) over the past decade, engaging in unprecedented cooperation to track the spread of COVID-19. Businesses aim to maximise public health benefits without sacrificing individual privacy. The new technology on iPhones and Android phones will allow users to withdraw from the system, which tracks nearby phones by providing information via Bluetooth, the report said. The tool warns users if they are near people who have been tested for COVID-19, which the WHO says has now infected more than 2.8 million people and killed 190,000.