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Google and Apple are collaborating to create a system for tracking the spread of coronavirus.
The joint effort could enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
Since Covid-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health organisations have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. In short, this means telling people if they have been in the presence of someone who has been diagnosed with the deadly virus.
Explaining the concept of the technology, it was explained that user consent is required and that personally identifiable information or user location data will not be collected.
A list of people you have had contact with will be created, which never leaves your phone. Then if someone tests positive you will be notified without the diagnosed person being identified.
It will not matter whether you have an Android phone or an iPhone, as the technology will work across both types of handset.
Official apps from public health authorities will get access to this data, and users who download them can report if they've been diagnosed with Covid-19.
The system will also alert people who download them to whether they were in close contact with an infected person.
According to a press release, Apple and Google will release application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
To help public health officials slow the spread of #COVID19, Google & @Apple are working on a contact tracing approach designed with strong controls and protections for user privacy. @tim_cook and I are committed to working together on these efforts.https://t.co/T0j88YBcFu
- Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) April 10, 2020
Then in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms.
The release continues: "Privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.
"We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyse.
"All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world's most pressing problems.
"Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of Covid-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life."
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