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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Only public health authorities will be able to create apps using Apple and Google's new contact-tracing technology, and governments won't be able to force people to use the tech, the companies clarified Monday.

Why it matters: The clarifications, and others offered by the companies on Monday, aim to address some of the privacy questions raised by the technology, which was jointly announced Friday.

Details: Apple and Google had been working on their joint effort — a smartphone-based system for notifying people if they were in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19 — for the last two and a half weeks, they said Monday.

  • While other agencies and countries are building their own technologies, Apple and Google said they wanted to create something that offers the maximum public health benefit without compromising individual privacy.
  • Unlike some other approaches, Apple and Google won't collect location information or identifying information about who tests positive. They also require a person to consent to share the data that is collected.
  • The companies also said Monday that health authorities will be able to include a mechanism for verifying that someone tested positive, such as a QR code from a health care provider. That helps address concerns that people could cause havoc by falsely claiming they tested positive.

How it works:

  • Google and Apple are both making changes to their mobile operating systems to let devices exchange a private key with nearby smartphones via Bluetooth, logging any time users come in close proximity.
  • If someone tests positive for COVID-19 and enters that information into an app, 14 days' worth of their contacts with other users is sent to a server.
  • Phones periodically check if any recently encountered user has reported being infected. If so, a notification pops up letting the user know that someone they have been in contact with has tested positive and more information is provided.
  • The new technology will work on iPhones running iOS 13 or later and on Android devices running any version of the operating system from 2015's Marshmallow on.

Most information is stored on individual devices; however, a server is needed to broadcast the keys used by someone who tests positive. Countries can either run their own servers or use ones from Apple and Google, the companies said on Monday.

Go deeper

White House removes Trump-appointed scientist from overseeing climate report

U.S. President Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has removed Trump-appointed atmospheric scientist Betsy Weatherhead from her role overseeing the government's "definitive report on the effects of climate change," the Washington Post first reported Monday.

Why it matters: While Weatherhead has not been fired — merely reassigned to the U.S. Geological Survey — the move represents an effort by the Biden administration to remove Trump-era appointees from scientific roles, per CNN.

Dave Lawler, author of World
57 mins ago - World

Castro era officially ends in Cuba

Diaz-Canel (L) with Raul Castro in 2018. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa/Getty Images

The Castro era ended in Cuba on Monday after six decades, with Raúl Castro handing over the reigns of a party founded in 1965 by his brother Fidel.

Why it matters: Miguel Díaz-Canel, 60, now assumes the challenge of maintaining Communist rule while grappling with growing discontent over Cuba's economic stagnation.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Global coronavirus cases hit new high as India's surge continues

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

More COVID-19 cases are now being recorded globally each day than ever before in the pandemic, surpassing the previous global peak in early January.

The big picture: At that time, the U.S. and Europe were driving the surge. This time, the biggest source of new cases is India.