Last Friday, April 10, 2020, Apple and Google announced its new partnership to work together on a dedicated software. The new data technology software will center on providing apps that aim to help track the spread of the virus.
In its press release, Apple said that both companies will provide launch developer tools or APIs come May. This will supposedly “enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities.”
In line with this, the new software is slated to be available on both the iTunes App Stores as well as on the Google Play Store. It will be named Bluetooth Low Energy (LE).
Both tech giants will utilize Bluetooth technology to “help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design,” said the press release.
According to CNBC, Bluetooth technology is more effective in tracking an individual’s position or location compared to cellular signals or GPS thanks to Bluetooth beacons within the area.
To complement this technology, Apple and Google will leverage Bluetooth via its team of app makers to produce an effective contact tracing method. With this approach, both firms will allow people to gain information about the individuals they have come in contact with and if they have tested positive for the said virus.
Within the next few months, both firms plan to widen their scale and integrate the Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform within existing apps.
Despite its focus on data privacy and security, there are many individuals and institutions alike who oppose the use of these apps. Following this announcement, privacy concerns and issues came to light, particularly with the tech companies using private data and selling it to third-party providers.
Some security experts in the field also outlined issues related to phone-location tracking. Included in the list are the anonymity of data, accessibility of said information, the use of information, and the lifecycle of the data.
In addition, threat intelligence vice president Sergio Caltagirone also said that the data may be used to discriminate against individuals as people navigate their lives after the quarantine, states Threat Post.
However, Apple and Google maintain that they won’t be mining nor asking for personally identifiable information. Moreover, the firms emphasize that users are required to give their explicit consent prior to using the app. The app will also focus on the proximity of the user to other devices and not its actual location per se, notes Threat Post.
Moreover, the tech companies said that the app will only be in operation until the pandemic. After the outbreak has been contained, the app will cease working as well.