Apple, Google Join Forces to Build COVID-19 Contact Tracing Tech

Posted on April 10, 2020 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, Google, Mobile, iOS, Android with 16 Comments

Apple and Google are today announcing a major partnership. Two of the world’s largest tech companies are joining forces to build a new contact tracing technology for the COVID-19 outbreak.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the partnership today. The aim of the partnership is to build a new contact tracing tech that will make use of Bluetooth to help reduce the spread of the virus, with privacy and security in mind.

The companies will be working on a “comprehensive” solution that will include APIs and OS-level integration that will enable contact tracing via Bluetooth. The solution will be rolled out in two different phases.

In May, Apple and Google will release APIs to enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices. The APIs, which can be used by public health authority apps, will allow devices to broadcast anonymous identifiers to devices that a person meets. This way, if a user tests positive for COVID-19 on an app from a public health authority, the people that they meet will be notified via these new APIs used by the apps.

Later in the year, Apple and Google will enable much deeper, OS-level integration. The companies plan on building a Bluetooth Low Energy-based contract tracing platform to their own operating systems. “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,” the companies said in a joint press statement.

The following two images explain how the technology would work:

Apple and Google are pledging to openly publish information about this new technology. The companies have released information on how the APIs would work, as well as the specification for the actual contact tracing technology. All of that can be found here.

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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Apple, Google Join Forces to Build COVID-19 Contact Tracing Tech”

  1. bluvg

    "Congratulations! You've been infected! A blue van is on the way to your location."

  2. karlinhigh

    I gather South Korea has a contact tracing system of some sort? I wonder how it compares with this idea.

  3. waethorn

    I'd love to see what a hacker will do with this software.

  4. waethorn

    This is why I got rid of my smartphone a couple years ago.

    Any technology labelled with the "smart" prefix intentionally has no security or privacy. They are silly little gilded cages in which you put your life, to which Big Tech can spy on you through the bars. Do yourself a favour and get rid of it.

  5. jgraebner

    I genuinely get the concerns about this solution. It absolutely is very concerning from a privacy standpoint and is full of potential for abuse, but I also am not sure what the alternative is, short of a vaccine or highly-effective treatment materializing much sooner than expected.

    For those that are saying "no way", what do you propose as an alternative? We certainly can't go on with most commerce and social interactive shut down indefinitely while the most likely results of just opening everything up blindly are basically unthinkable.

  6. jdawgnoonan

    I would rather get the virus and be sick for a week or two than have this crap.

  7. jbinaz

    Hell no!

  8. IanYates82

    Ignoring the slippery slope arguments. Ignoring general creep factor. Others have addressed these for and against...

    For this to work well you need a decent chunk of people - maybe over 80% - actively using it.

    Unless this is ported to old devices, and the apps are mandated, and you have Bluetooth on, etc, I don't see how this can work well enough.

    At best it helps a little, at worst it's relied on too much and presents a false impression of success.

  9. red.radar (check)

    but let’s be honest... this is just repurposing ad beacon and tracing technology they have been using against us for years.

  10. soundersfan

    The conspiracy theorist heads are going to explode with news of this.

  11. Chris_Kez

    Just this morning I was envisioning Apple coming out with some kind of contact tracing solution. I mean, they love to talk about how Apple Watch can save lives; I was just imagining the commercial where they talk about how Apple devices can keep you safe from COVID-19. Talk about a compelling reason to switch to iOS! What I never imagined was a joint effort from Apple and Google to tackle this. Good job.

  12. ronh

    What could go wrong with this?

  13. jgraebner

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Yes, there are trials going on, but it is unlikely any vaccine will be widely available until some time in 2021. Contact tracing is by far the most likely way to re-open the economy without causing a massive resurgence.