Apple announced on Friday that it is teaming up with Google for “contact tracing technology”. The goal? Fight back the disease and try to get back to a sense of normalcy that has abandoned so many people due to the pandemic. Apple says that it is partnering with Google to use Bluetooth technology to “help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus”. However, the press release today makes sure to add that “user privacy and security central to the design”.
Opt-in contact tracing is a potentially vital component to helping stop the spread of COVID-19. NGOs, public health authorities, and universities all across the globe have worked to develop this, and Apple and Google’s partnership will help push it even further ahead. That includes launching new application programming interfaces (APIs), and even technologies implemented at the operating system level.
First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying 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. 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 analyze.