The first version of the upcoming contact tracing APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities is coming earlier than expected, on April 28, according to Apple’s chief executive.
Reuters relays these words from the mouth of the European Union’s industry leader Thierry Breton following a conference call with Apple CEO Tim Cook:
It is the responsibility of companies such as Apple to do their utmost to develop suitable technical solutions to make the national apps work. Coordination with EU member states’ health authorities is paramount.
According to iGeneration, Cook has confirmed to Breton that Apple will be releasing the first version of its contact tracing API next Tuesday on April 28. Meanwhile, the government of France is launching its contact tracing app by May 11, but it doesn’t seem it’s going to work on iPhone as planned because it doesn’t appear to protect user privacy.
Bloomberg said recently that the French government asked Apple to update iPhone privacy settings so its app could work on iPhones, but so far no solution has been proposed.
iOS prevents apps like the one France is working on from using Bluetooth in the background if the data collected is going to be moved off of the device, which is a rule designed to protect user privacy. With this limitation, a contact tracing app is only able to access Bluetooth when an iPhone is unlocked and the app is open.
However, Apple is developing its own Bluetooth-based smartphone tracking solution to allow governments and health agencies to reduce the spread of the coronavirus while also protecting user privacy.
As we reported last week, Apple and arrival Google have teamed up on new privacy-first COVID-19 contact tracing technology which they have designed to permit governments and health agencies around the world to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
That includes launching new application programming interfaces (APIs), and new technologies implemented at the operating system level. The companies were supposed to release APIs some time in May, but as Cook confirmed, it’s going to be available a bit sooner.
The Apple-Google initiative will also include specialized software downloadable via the Cupertino company’s App Store and Android‘s Google Play. The whole system was designed to protect user privacy and will require verification for users who test positive.