Tech giant Apple and Google have teamed up to develop a decentralized contact tracing app to alert people if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The system would use short-range Bluetooth communications to establish a voluntary contact-tracing network, keeping extensive data on phones that have been in close proximity with each other. 

How it works

Official apps from public health organizations will get API access to this data that they can integrate into their own apps. The process will be opt-in and will require users to download a new, official app

Both the companies will come up with a system-level contact tracing system that will work across iOS and Android devices on an opt-in basis in a later phase.

Privacy and transparency

Contact tracing is a method that involves figuring out who an infected person has been in contact with and trying to prevent them from infecting others. Though it is one of the most promising solutions for containing COVID-19, many argue this can compromise user privacy. 

Google and Apple are mitigating the privacy issue by using Bluetooth instead of GPS that tracks the user’s physical location, 

The system is still relatively new, and Apple and Google are still talking to public health authorities and other stakeholders about how to run it. This system probably can’t replace old-fashioned methods of contact tracing — which involve interviewing infected people about where they’ve been and who they’ve spent time with — but it could offer a high-tech supplement using a device that billions of people already own.

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