Google and Apple Change Tactics on Contact Tracing Tech
In April, Apple and Google announced that they would team up to combat COVID-19 outbreaks and the ongoing pandemic through developing a contact tracing app utilizing Bluetooth signals from smartphones. The contact tracing was designed to help alert users to potential exposures, as well as help public health officials to track down those who may have been exposed and continued to spread the virus. However, the distribution of the tool and technical framework provided by Apple and Google was up to the states to build specific apps that incorporate it.
Since Apple and Google’s rollout of the Bluetooth tracing tech, only six US states have created and launched apps integrating the system. Contact tracing applications have raised significant questions, including those over the privacy and influence of big tech firms. Others questioned how much contact tracing would help the response to the pandemic due to disarray in other aspects such as testing, infected resources, and manual contact tracing.
On Tuesday, Apple and Google stated that they will begin to send and receive alerts through devices, with no outside application download required. The function will be named Exposure Notification Express and will be starting Tuesday in iOS 13.7. Over concerns about privacy, Apple and Google pledged that they are not collecting identifying data and rather rely on anonymous identifiers. The new feature will lie within the operating system, however, iPhone users will be able to opt-in or out of the service.