Apple and Google’s COVID-19 contact-tracing API rolls out April 28

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bluetooth-tracing
Coming later this month.
Photo: Apple/Google

The first version of Apple and Google’s contact-tracing API will reportedly roll out April 28, Apple CEO Tim Cook says.

As noted by French language website iGeneration, Cook revealed the launch date to European Commissioner Thierry Breton, who then shared it during a press conference held Wednesday.

In a press conference held Wednesday, Breton also discussed other issues related to the app. According to a Reuters report, he “urged Apple to work constructively with national health authorities to ensure that contact tracing apps developed by national governments work on its devices.”

Google and Apple announced their voluntary contact-tracing solution to stop the spread of COVID-19 earlier this month. The system aims to help track where infected individuals have been and who they have come into contact with. In the original press release announcing the initiative, Apple and Google gave May as the month the service would roll out.

Contact-tracing API poses challenges

While this contact-tracing API could certainly be an incredibly useful tool, however, having two of the world’s biggest tech giants create a potential standard for tracking the spread of COVID-19 hasn’t been without problems. Both companies have stressed the importance of protecting user data. For example, their contact-tracing API does not collect personally identifiable information or location data. The app will also anonymize information. This is via an anonymous key that changes every 15 minutes.

But different governments and organizations around the world have different expectations when it comes to privacy. For instance, in the United States, President Donald Trump has said that some people “have some very big constitutional problems” with the tool. Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley has said Apple and Google’s CEOs should take personal responsibility for maintaining user privacy.

Meanwhile, in the UK the National Health Service (NHS) is in a standoff with the two companies over its demands that they break current Bluetooth privacy protocols. The NHS wants Apple and Google to lift limits on how Bluetooth can be used. Google says those limits are in place so that they can’t be abused for surveillance purposes. A similar debate is going on in France. Officials there want the app to be detectable via Bluetooth even when it’s not running.