2. Apple, Google limit contact-tracing technology
Only public health authorities will be able to create apps using Apple's and Google's new contact-tracing technology, and the companies say that it should be optional, meaning they don't want governments forcing people to use it, the two firms clarified Monday.
Why it matters: These clarifications and others offered by the companies aim to address some of the privacy questions raised by the technology, which they 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 who 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 a tool that offers 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, tapping Bluetooth, are logging any time users come in close proximity.
- If someone tests positive for COVID-19 and enters that information into an app, their recent contacts can be notified.
Most of this 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.
Our thought bubble: Google and Apple are trying hard to build a system that people will feel comfortable using. But one piece is out of their control: the availability of testing. Without widespread testing, which is still lagging in the U.S., such a system will be of far less use.