Apple and Google partner on Bluetooth-based contact tracing
Tech giants Google and Apple have announced a new partnership focusing on 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 officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread.
A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology.
To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.
In May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. The official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
In coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and the two companies say they are looking forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.
The companies in a further statement say that through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, they are looking at harnessing the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.