Google/Apple Covid 19 API: More answers

[German]Google and Apple plans to implement an API for a COVID 19 tracking system in Android and iOS. Now there is some more information about this project.


Some Background

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 idea is a system that makes contacts of coronavirus infected people traceable. For this purpose, it should be possible to determine with whom one had contacts via Bluetooth communication at close range. The plan is to establish a voluntary network for contact tracing. This will involve storing extensive data on mobile phones that were in close proximity to each other. It is emphasized that data protection should be the main focus.

I first mentioned the topic a few days ago in the blog post Apple and Google cooperate on API for COVID 19 apps. It's natural that such approaches immediately raise the concerns of data protectionists. Then it must not lead to any tracking functions suddenly being Meanwhile, representatives from Apple and Google have provided some additional information about the plans regarding Bluetooth API for a COVID 19 tracking system for Android and iOS.misused for other purposes. In this article, someone from the Netherlands gives (justified) thoughts on this topic. In Germany, the Minister of Justice insists that a tracking app is only used on a voluntary basis. But nobody knows the dynamics and the social pressure – besides that would mean: API is available worldwide and could be abused by apps. 

More answers to the plans

Inzwischen haben Vertreter von Apple und Google einige zusätzliche Informationen zu den Plänen in Sachen Bluetooth-API für ein COVID-19-Tracking-System für Android und iOS mitgeteilt.

But which operating systems will receive this API and how will this be established in Android? Regarding the support of the OS versions, the following is now clear:


  • iPhones and iPads only get the API from iOS 13 on – as older iOS versions they will not be supported.
  • Google wants to upgrade Android from version 6.0 on via Google Play Services – on other webs older Android devices usually don't get updates. 

In the announcements it is said that the functions are only to be activated via an opt-in. The opt-in system uses Bluetooth to transmit a random and anonymous identifier to nearby devices. A user can then choose to upload their anonymized data, which is then transmitted to other devices. When a match is found based on the time spent and distance between nearby devices, the user is notified that he may have been exposed to a person – whose identity is not shared – with the virus. Techcrunch has posted an article with more information.

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