Apple and Google are working together to develop a coronavirus tracking system that will allow iPhone and Android smartphones to monitor the spread of COVID-19. The system will include tools for contact tracking with the government and health agencies, but it will also emphasize personal privacy and security.
Determining how coronavirus is transmitted has been one of the most challenging aspects . Although the virus is believed to have been discovered in China for the first time, due to its high spreading ability and concealment, the spread process in almost all countries and regions around the world is almost unimpeded.
For example, those who carry coronaviruses are thought to be infected within 48 hours before any symptoms of the virus appear. Even more troublesome is that about a quarter of people are infected with the COVID-19 virus and eventually have no symptoms at all. In other words, they may be carriers of the virus, but did not show any obvious symptoms. On the other hand, due to differences in medical resources in different countries, limited active testing efforts have prevented accurate counting.
One possible way to solve this problem is to establish a contact tracking system, for example, use people’s smartphones to generate a record of the places they have been to and the people they have approached. Several such projects have begun worldwide, but now Google and Apple are working together to create operating system-specific tools and APIs that will make this process easier.
First, when using public health agency applications, Apple and Google will release special APIs that allow interoperability between iOS and Android devices. Such applications will be provided through the App Store and Google Play store respectively. This will mean that no matter what platform people use, software can better communicate data.
The two companies said that these APIs should be completed in May. However, in the next few months, Apple and Google plan to develop “a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracking platform by building this feature in the underlying platform.” It is described as “more powerful” than the API, It will pave the way for more people to participate by choosing to join at the system level. It will also work with a wider range of applications and ecosystems in government health departments.
The system does not collect personally identifiable information or user location data. Instead, it will build a list of people you have ever contacted, and all information is stored only on the phone. At the beginning of the process, the user will be clearly informed of the required information. Even if someone shows a positive result after testing, their personal information will not be identified to Google, Apple or other users. Instead, these data will be used by the public health department for contact tracking. When you are close to someone—whether you are using an iOS device or an Android device, or whether they are using an iOS device or an Android device—both phones will exchange an anonymous recognizer beacon via Bluetooth LE, and these beacons will automatically Replace frequently.
Afterwards, if the user is diagnosed as COVID-19 and enters the result into the database of the public health agency, after consent, the key of the owner ’s broadcast beacon for the last 14 days will be uploaded to the cloud, and the other person ’s device will be downloaded Broadcast beacon keys for anyone in their area and compare them with their own address book. If a matching person is found, a notification will pop up on the phone. This might read something like “Alert: You have recently been exposed to someone who has tested COVID-19”. A link will be attached to help close contacts understand what to do next.
Importantly, privacy and data security will be a particular area of concern. “In this work, privacy, transparency and consent are the most important,” the two companies pointed out. “We look forward to establishing this function in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will publicly announce our work information, For others to analyze. “
Although the first batch of APIs will not appear until next month, Apple and Google are already publishing draft technical documents for the systems they have in mind. This will include Bluetooth and cryptography specifications, as well as a framework API.