Apple and Google have announced that they will be working together to fight the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. The two companies plan to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health care agencies reduce the spread of the virus. However, in its release, Apple notes that user privacy and security will be central to the design.
The company stated, “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.”
The first step will be taken in May when both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. The company notes that these official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app.
Further, the companies plan on working together to enable broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platform. This is planned to launch in the coming months and the company claims that this would be a more robust solution than an API and should allow for more people to participate if they choose to opt-in. The companies claim that privacy, transparency and consent are very important and will be working together to build this functionality in consultation with “interested stakeholders”. The companies also say that both will openly publish information about their work for “others to analyze”.