Apple and Google form historic partnership to help curb the spread of COVID-19

Companies team up to develop COVID-19 contact tracking technology between Android and iOS

The current scenario we are all facing is unprecedented for our generation, as is the vast choice of technologies at our disposal. Day after day we discover and learn a way to overcome the side effects caused by COVID-19 coronavirus.

This Friday, the 10th, Apple and Google announced a historic partnership. Aligned in the focus of joining efforts and resources to fight COVID-19 (a Apple joined this week to America Food Fund — along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Laurene Powell Jobs — as well as donating billions of dollars around the world, of masks and more on the way), the tech giants proposed the creation of tools for graphic interface and APIs unique, for Android and iOS. The resources are available to the governments of the countries to implement the technologies.

Through the use of technology Bluetooth, present in all smartphones, the app, running in the background, would pick up connections around — within a radius of up to 15 meters without a barrier — to notify you if that subject is infected with the coronavirus or has recently been with someone who is infecting it.

The companies demonstrated their considerations:

All over the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect people and bring society back to normal. Software developers are contributing to the creation of tools to help fight viruses and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing that they are working together, using Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies stop the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security at the center.

As COVID-19 can be transmitted to people by proximity, public health officials have found contact tracking to be a valuable tool to contain the spread. Several leading public health authorities, universities and NGOs around the world have done important work in developing opt-in contact tracking technologies. In support of this cause, Apple and Google will release a complete solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system technology to aid in contact tracking. Given the urgency, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps, preserving strong safeguards around user privacy.

Official announcement – Apple and Google

The CEO of Apple Tim Cook and the CEO of Google Sundar Pichai also made their announcements for the Twitter:

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Several questions regarding privacy were immediately raised. Apple, Google and governments would not “only” have access to the user’s GPS data, but would also know who is close to them and their personal history with the coronavirus. The companies made it clear, however, that the resource will be optional.

It is expected that the development of cross-platform resources will start by the month of May, with frequent iterations in sequence. For now, it has not been disclosed when and if such technology will be made available in the Brazil.

For technical information about the features, Apple and Google published their documentation. A second new page has been created by Apple to reinforce your commitment to privacy. the own WHO, World Health Organization, already has the article on its official website about the technology.

all of us in Apple and at Google we believe there has never been such an important time to work together to solve one of the planet’s most pressing problems. Through cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world halt the advance of COVID-19 and accelerate the return to everyday life.

Press Advice – Apple and Google

More information will be released by the companies in the coming weeks.

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China already uses tracking technology to monitor the advance of COVID-19

Recently, at the beginning of March when the pandemic gained worldwide coverage, the China adopted a similar strategy to keep people safe. Through the app Alipay Health Code, created by the Chinese giant alibaba, the Chinese government started monitoring the health of citizens, being classified by green, yellow or red flags, to control where and when the person was. The government defends the use of the app as “key to prevention and control of epidemics”.

After the user accepts the terms and conditions of the application, their data (such as name, location and number of documents) are sent to the authorities through a file called “reportInfoAndLocationToPolice” or “send information and location to the Police”. Along with sending the data, whenever the application is scanned through the flag that displays a QR code — as shown in the example below —, your location is also stored on the system’s servers. This would make it possible for the government to track the citizen’s journeys completely.

Example of qr codes, like those used in china systems

Such a concern can be extremely important to us Westerners. However, the Chinese government has full control over data traffic on its territory, and issues related to privacy and freedom, such as Civil Law of the Internet or the debates about Network Neutrality, are not allowed for the population.

During the announcement, Apple and Google ensured that “privacy, transparency and consent are of the utmost importance in this effort.“.

Earlier, the Apple published in your channel on YouTube a special video to remind us that, even during the period of quarantine and isolation and social distancing, “creativity continues”.

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References: Apple Newsroom, Google Blog and The New York Times.

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