Google and Apple, the two tech giants are working together for creating an API for COVID-19 Exposure Notification. Basically to prevent virus from spreading more, Contact Tracing is used in which public health agents check people who came in contact with the COVID-19 diagnosed person. So, to help public health agents or hospitals Apple & Google have collaborated to make API which will do contact tracing using Proximity Tracking.
How will the App work?
Google & Apple aren’t going to make their own app instead they are building an API which can be used by software developers to create an app.
Software developers are trying hard to use technology to help people in this situation and now they can create something using Google & Apple’s API.
The App will use Bluetooth technology to check the distance between other people. Generally, your device’s Bluetooth would send ping to find nearby devices like your headphones or speakers. But here, your device will send ping to find other smartphones and upon finding smartphone, based on the connectivity it will find out the distance between two devices. This is called Proximity Tracking. The weaker the connection, better for us as the distance will be more.
Now when the app finds out that other device is close to it, then it will log that device and the other device will also log your device. If the other device’s owner has been diagnosed with COVID-19 then the doctor will give permission to upload the diagnosis keys that the app has created. The permission is required as to prevent false calls. By uploading the diagnosis keys, anyone who uses this API can access it.
Your app will download all diagnosis keys available everyday and check whether you were in contact with a COVID-19 diagnosed person or not. If you were then the app will notify you that you were in contact with a COVID-19 diagnosed person.
What about Privacy?
Google and Apple have not neglected privacy. The API will not collect any sensitive data and not even location.
The API will not store any data centrally. The data will be stored on your device. If you were to be diagnosed by COVID-19 then only you will share key with server. Again the key will not contain any sensitive information. The unique key will help to identify whether you were in contact or not as, when you were in contact the API recorded other device’s key.
During Bluetooth Ping, security is added to prevent third party app to know your location.
Infact, Google & Apple have made certain conditions on using the API by developers to prevent users from installing fake or infected apps. The conditions are:
- Apps must be created by or for a government public health authority and they can only be used for COVID-19 response efforts.
- Apps must require users to consent before the app can use the API.
- Apps must require users to consent before sharing a positive test result with the public health authority.
- Apps should only collect the minimum amount of data necessary and can only use that data for COVID-19 response efforts. All other uses of user data, including targeting advertising, is not permitted.
- Apps are prohibited from seeking permission to access Location Services.
- Use of the API will be restricted to one app per country to promote high user adoption and avoid fragmentation. If a country has opted for a regional or state approach, Apple and Google are prepared to support those authorities.
It is great to know that two rival companies have collaborated to make situations better. Why Google & Apple have collaborated anyways, because the major OS running on smartphone is Android & iOS. The API is supported on both OS making API easier to do contact tracing. Just imagine if both did not collaborated then, Google API will work only on Android and Apple API will work only on iPhone making bad contact tracing. So to cover more users or all users they have collaborated.
If you want to learn more about API then click here.
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