Development of new technology for Covid-19 contact tracing initiated by Apple and Google.

Tech giants Apple and Google have come along to fight the dreaded pandemic. They are trying to develop technology that will spread awareness if someone has come near an infected individual. 

Their initial objective is to support third-party contact tracing apps to run efficiently.

Their approach respects the user’s privacy and keeps their identity hidden. Instead, they will use the Bluetooth signals of the user’s smartphones to determine their contact history that can risk any form of contamination. Thus, when anyone whom the user has been in contact with gets infected by a coronavirus, the user will be notified.

There will be no recording of the GPS location and personal information of the user.

Both the companies released a joint statement that emphasizes the privacy, transparency, and consent of the users.

They have further assured that they will publish all information related to their work openly so that others can analyze it.

President Donald Trump has appreciated the idea but also expressed concerns over people’s freedom. Heassured of a speedy decision related to it following a thorough analysis.

On the other hand, the European Union’s Data Protection Supervisor has been more supportive of the solution listing the various pros associated with it.

But there’s no denying that the success of the initiative is directly dependent on the fact that enough people get tested. 

As the majority of the people use iOS or Andriod operating systems this solution does seem feasible.

Few countries have already started using cell phones to detect contagions whereas others are working on individual initiatives.

What the two companies want to achieve by this initiative is to allow third-party apps to include their solution. This will make the apps interoperable and thereby making contact tracing feasible among people using different tools. 

The project has been operative for about two weeks but was revealed only this Friday. If this scheme becomes successful then this could help relax the existing lockdown situations and border restrictions. 

Matches based on cell phones:

The companies intend to release an Application Programming Interface (API) by the middle of May, allowing other apps to run on the same basis.

Although records of the Digital IDs will be stored in a remote computer they have assured complete privacy.

Also, the contact-tracing process would take place on cell phones instead of being centrally facilitated thereby allowing exclusive notifications.

Moreover, the technical details regarding the cryptography specifications and Bluetooth usage have been released by the companies, hoping that this would help build trust.

Another benefit of this solution is that there wouldn’t be any incompatibility issues because of buggy updates. Also, claims of minimal battery usage have been made.

No need for apps:

Phase two of the initiative focuses on developing in-built contact tracing capabilities into the Operating systems. This would give the users the option to turn on or off the respective feature without having to download any app.

The facility would be delivered by a software update and would also allow third-party apps to interact with it. 

They claim that this would lead to broader adoption by the users and would also allow the companies to regionally disable tracing when not needed. 

But there’s no guarantee in the fact that this solution will be widely accepted as other notable efforts are being made in this direction. The Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), with its team of 130 technologists and scientists, has revealed its own attempt to deliver a privacy-centric solution on April 1. The group is also reported to have made contact with several European governments.


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