COVID-19 Cases

Apple, Google Update Coronavirus Contact Tracking Tech


The system announced on April 10 will use Bluetooth technology to allow authorities to build apps to alert people close to those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. EOLBREAK The technology does not use GPS location data and decentralized storage of most sensitive data on user phones. The approach opened a rift with planning systems for European governments to store data on centralized servers.

Without Apple-Google technology, those governments ' apps will face limitations such as the need to unlock a phone's screen to work properly. EOLBREAK Health and privacy researchers also cited privacy concerns addressed on Friday by making it harder to use system-generated data to track individuals.

Numbers identifying users will be generated randomly, and so-called "metadata" such as Bluetooth signal strength and user phone models will now be encrypted along with primary data about who they were near. EOLBREAK "Exposure time," or how long two phones were close to each other, will be rounded to5-minute intervals to avoid using detailed time data to match phones to people.

The companies also sought to address health researchers ' concerns about the system being ineffective. Because Bluetooth signals can penetrate some walls, and can be detected even when brief and weak, researchers worried about neighborhood false alerts in apartment buildings or passers-by in public spaces. EOLBREAK Apple and Google will now provide data on Bluetooth power levels to better estimate how close two phones came to each other, and for how long, allowing authorities to set their own thresholds for alerting people.

The companies also said they would provide data on how many days had gone by since the last contact with an infected person, helping authorities notify users what steps to take.

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