Authorities in 23 countries across five continents have sought to contact Apple and Alphabet’s tracing technology from Google, with companies announcing on Wednesday that they had released an early version of their system.
But officials will have to circumvent the need for phone numbers from users under the rules of companies, one of many restrictions that have left governments fighting the novel Coronavirus Disappointed that the world’s top two smartphone software manufacturers reduce the utility of technology by prioritizing user privacy.
# COVID-19 Exposure information technology we jointly created @Apple Now available to public health agencies in support of their contact tracing efforts. Our goal is to empower them with another tool to help them deal with viruses while protecting user privacy.
– Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) May 20, 2020
Using the application to accelerate contact tracing, in which officials identify and test people who were recently near a virus carrier, emerged as a tool to stem new outbreaks is. This may help authorities to test potentially infected individuals as they might normally be based on patients recalling recent interactions from memory.
Technology can help health officials increasingly tell someone that they came into contact with COVID-19. Today’s exposure notification API we created @Google Available to help public health agencies make their COVID-19 apps effective while protecting user privacy.
– Tim Cook (@tim_cook) May 20, 2020
But some governments oppose their app-based efforts if they can track users’ locations to identify hot spots for the transmission of the virus and inform them of the potential risk through calls or texts Are, instead of a general push notification.
“We are a collision of tech, privacy and health professionals and there is not really one place in the Venn diagram where they all overlap,” said Chaser Wisniewski, a leading research scientist at the cyber security company Sophos.
Australia, the United Kingdom, and other countries seeking to develop their own technology are experiencing glitches, phasing out device batteries and seeing limited adoption.
Apple and Google have stated that their system will more reliably use Bluetooth connections between devices to log users who are in physical proximity for at least five minutes.
The developers of the contact tracing app for Austria, Germany and Switzerland told Reuters this week that they were moving forward with Apple-Google technology and did not know the users’ phone numbers.
Other governments are hedging their bets. Norway plans to compare the effectiveness of its SmitStop app with the Apple-Google-based app of Gunn Peggy Knudsen, acting deputy director of the Institute of Public Health.
Smittestopp, which has a development budget of around $ 5 million (about Rs 37.8 crore), accesses the GPS location and requires a phone number. But its limited use has been seen due to the small number of new infections.
“If tracing is much better with the Apple-Google tool, maybe we should switch and we’ll consider what we need to do to make the switch,” Knodson said.
North Dakota, which previously offered the US contact tracing app, told Reuters on Wednesday that it would abandon its Early Care19 app as a location-tracking “diary” tool to help arouse patients’ memories. But it will also release a new Care19 exposure app based on Apple-Google technology.
The Australian government said it was in talks with Apple and Google about expanding its COVIDSafe app, which currently requires phone numbers, postcodes and age limits.
© Thomson Reuters 2020