Apple and Google cooperate on API for COVID 19 apps

[German]The two US companies Apple and Google are cooperating on the development of a Bluetooth API for a COVID 19 tracking system for Android and iOS. The two companies have just announced this.


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Around the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to protect people and get society moving again. Software developers are contributing technical tools to fight the spread of the virus and save lives.

Idea of a contact tracking app

Apple and Google have just announced a joint collaboration to enable the use of Bluetooth technology for tracking coronavirus infections. The idea is a system that makes contacts of coronavirus infected people traceable. For this purpose, Bluetooth communication in the close range is to be used to determine with whom one had contacts. The plan is to establish a voluntary network for contact tracking. This will involve storing extensive data on mobile phones that were in close proximity to each other. The system is described in this white paper

Corona-Tracking-App
(Corona-Tracking-App, Source: Apple, Google)

Official applications of health authorities will then have access to this data, and users who use such apps will be able to report whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The app is also designed to alert people who install it to whether they have been in close contact with an infected person.

This idea has been in the media for some time. But data protectionists are critical of the data collection. That’s why Apple and Google say that privacy and user security should be at the heart of the design. This should enable governments and health authorities to contain the spread of the virus by making infection chains and contacts traceable.


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API available for Android and iOS in May

Apple and Google will introduce a pair of iOS and Android APIs in mid-May and ensure that the health authorities’ apps can implement them. During the first phase, users will still need to download an app to participate in contact tracking, which could limit acceptance.

In the months following the completion of the API, companies will work to incorporate tracking and tracing functionality into the underlying operating system. This API should make it an option available on any iOS or Android device. More information can be found in the linked announcements from Apple and Google, in the white paper and in this The Verge article.


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