Apple and Google released additional details about their coronavirus contact-tracing system Monday, informing public health officials that they will not be able to use Location Services to track people. The companies also said they will limit use of the contact-tracing API to one per country.
Both companies also showed off what an app might look like on people’s smartphones — and shared sample pieces of code local governments could use in their own mobile apps.
A handful of Apple and Google employees turned a novel approach to fighting COVID-19 from a spark of an idea to a pandemic-fighting tool in less than a month. The tech giants combined forces in March, intent on creating a contact-tracing app capable of monitoring the movements of people who might have come in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.
Multiple companies that created software to hack into mobile phones now offer versions of their products to trace the spread of COVID-19, according to a published report Tuesday.
Very different from contact-tracing technologies that focus on finding the virus but at the same time protect privacy, these new systems would not need a patient’s consent to gain entry into the device.
The U.K. reportedly decided to go with a coronavirus contact-tracing application different from the system Apple and Google are creating jointly. The National Health Service built an app that creates a central database of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The Apple and Google solution uses a decentralized system for privacy reasons.
Apple and Google said Friday they are building in stronger privacy protections to their planned contact-tracing system for COVID-19 and that an early version of the initiative will launch for developers next week.
Sen. Josh Hawley wants Apple and Google to have some skin in the game when it comes to keeping data private in their joint coronavirus contact-tracing project. Hawley’s idea? That the Apple and Google CEOs — Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, respectively — should take personal responsibility for ensuring the data is kept private.
“If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” the Republican senator from Missouri wrote Tuesday in a letter to Cook and Pichai. “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy, such as by granting advertising companies access to the interface once the pandemic is over.”