Apple, Google to alert users when they’ve been near a person with COVID-19


FILE – In this Sept. 16, 2016 file photo, a customer compares her iPhone 6, left, with an iPhone 7 at an Apple Store in Chicago. IPhone owners could get $25 from Apple after the company agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle claims over intentionally slowing down older phones to preserve older batteries. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

(WTVO) — Apple and Google are teaming up to add technology onto iPhone and Android devices which will alert a user if they’ve come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Bloomberg reports the technology, known as contract-tracing, is designed to curb the spread of coronavirus by telling users if they should quarantine after coming in contact with an infected individual.

The tech giants said Friday that they would be installing the technology into the iOS and Android operating systems by mid-May, which would send anonymous data to public health authorities.

Users must opt-in to the program.

If a user tests positive for COIVD-19, it adds that data to their public health app, and users who come in close proximity to that person will be notified of their contact.

Apple and Google said Friday that the system preserves the user’s privacy, as consent is required and location data is not collected. The system will not say specifically who a person came in contact with, or where it happened.

According to Bloomberg, the way it works is “Two people meet to chat for a few minutes, and in the background via Bluetooth their smartphones exchange anonymous identifiers to register that they have been in contact. These digital keys change every 15 minutes or so and remain on these people’s devices to preserve privacy.”

If one of those users is diagnosed with COVID-19, the person enters the results on a health app on their phone, which then sends a record of all the other mobile devices that have been in close proximity for the past few days.

“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems,” the companies said in a joint statement.


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