29 April 2020
Apple and Google have stood up to do something together that could help reduce the spread of the deadliest disease and hence make this world a better place or, at least, a place that was before this pandemic. They both are developing Contact Tracing tool that could tell people they recently had a contact with a COVID-19 infected person. The platform doesn’t use GPS and rather rely on Bluetooth Low Energy to transfer relative information between the phones.
The announcement made by Apple and Google revealed very little about the tool, leaving behind the important concerns and curious questions of the masses. But later on, in a press briefing, more is shared, though the exact implementation is still hidden to everyone.
Apple made it clear that the Contact Tracing platform works on a verification flow, meaning that the users will be required to submit the proof in order to report that they have tested positive for the disease. While Apple and Google did not address the growing concerns of the people, they did talk once again about privacy and how this process is going to be implemented. Verification is necessary to prevent users from falsely reporting.
The whole process depends upon how early an infected person informs the app. One has to enter the desired information so that others could be saved as well. To better understand the working of the app, we should forget that it involves infected people and the people who came in close proximity to them. Once the app goes live and you install it, your phones will just start to exchange some anonymous key identifiers with each other. This does not involve the personal information of the people who are involved in it. Google and Apple have specifically stressed the fact that no private information will be shared between the “n” number of parties involved in it.
But, no matter how the platform is working or how openly Apple and Google are speaking on privacy, it is obvious to think about the elephant in the room. If a person “A” diagnosed with coronavirus comes in contact with as many as 10 people, then those people are not going to know which person made them infected as well. But this may get traced by people using certain obvious ways. The concern of the masses is also unavoidable, especially when people would start to discriminate against others.
While explaining the important bits on the Contact Tracing tool, Apple and Google also stressed that the platform is not enforced by governments and will instead work on a complete opt-in basis. But it will be shared by the health services so that they can take immediate action in annihilating the disease. In May, when the platform goes live as API, public health authorities will be allowed access to the contact tracing API. This will help them to identify the infected people in their vicinity and trace others as well on time, thus reducing the spread to a certain extent.
The platform sounds promising and it can prove to be a great tool in keeping the disease at bay and diminish the risks that could have some adverse effects. We should come up as one and stop the fear of being recognized and get discriminated against by the people around us.
While sharing some key details, Google and Apple also shared how the platform will be rolled out to their respective devices. Google will roll out this feature to Android 6.0 and above devices via Google Play services instead of a full OS update. And, Apple said it will roll out the platform to a number of iOS devices.