In a blog post Friday, the tech giants declared a joint effort “in a spirit of cooperation to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.”
COVID-19, they noted, can be transmitted person-to-person- by close proximity and public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities and NGOs around the world have worked on opt-in contact tracing technology. Apple and Google say they will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system technology to enable it.
In one step, in May, the companies will release APIs that allow interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for download via respective app stores. And, in the coming months, Apple and Google will enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform that will be built in.
It brings up a million questions. An Apple rep wasn’t immediately available.
“This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze,” they said. They released draft technical documentation including Bluetooth and cryptography specifications and framework information.
“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.”