Google, Apple develop apps that alert users of someone with COVID-19

April 15, 2020
Apps for COVID
A mobile's Bluetooth signals will be used to track every other phone its user has come into close contact with, and people will be alerted if they may have been exposed to someone with Covid-19.

APPLE and Google are joining forces in a bid to develop technology where smartphones can warn users that they may potentially be exposed to coronavirus.

The rival companies are opening up their mobile operating systems so both iPhone and Android devices can run contact tracing apps.

These work by using a mobile's Bluetooth signals to track every other phone its user has come into close contact with.

The implementation has raised concerns over potential breaches of privacy, though the tech giants insist that the data will be anonymous and that “privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance.” If a person using the app tests positive for Covid-19, they can then upload their movements to a public database.

Other users will then be able to anonymously check their own logs against others to see if they've potentially been exposed to a carrier of the virus.

If there's a match, the person will receive a message indicating when and where they might have been exposed, along with guidance as to whether they should just watch for symptoms, seek testing, or self-quarantine.

Contact tracing apps have been used in several other countries outside the US and Europe in an effort to contain the pandemic, including in Singapore and South Korea.

Under the plans, the phone records the date, time, distance, and duration of contact between the two devices, but unlike the Find My App feature, it doesn't use GPS data to ensure the logs remain anonymous.

The app will also periodically create new ID codes for each device to make it hard to trace any interaction back to any specific individual.

“Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders,” Apple and Googles said in a joint statement.

While interest in contact tracing apps has been high among governments, some healthcare workers are skeptical about their usefulness.

Some IT experts said there’s a likelihood of a high number of false positives due to the imprecise nature of Bluetooth itself.

They added that false information could add further strain on the frontliners, making it even harder for those in need to get care.

Most people only become mildly ill, but the infection can turn serious and even deadly, especially for those who are older or have underlying health conditions. (DailyMail)