Apple, Google Plan Virus Tracing on Smartphones

Users would be warned they'd been exposed to someone who tested positive
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2020 5:15 PM CDT
Apple, Google Want Smartphones to Trace Virus Contact
A man using his smartphone to film as traffic pauses at an intersection during a national moment of mourning for victims of the coronavirus, near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, last Saturday.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(Newser) – Apple and Google announced Friday that they're teaming up to build software that would let people use their smartphones to follow the potential spread of the coronavirus. Contact tracing could support governments removing stay-at-home orders, the Wall Street Journal reports. The tools would use Bluetooth to keep track of passing smartphones, so that users who test positive for the coronavirus could check the data for the past 14 days to identify anyone who had been close enough to risk infection. Those at risk would receive a message on their phone, which the companies said could be something like: "ALERT: You have recently been exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. Tap for more information."

The two tech giants, in the largest such collaboration ever, plan to give developers what they need to build the apps in a month or so, per the Washington Post. The tools are intended to work on iPhone and Android devices. The software would not reveal the identity of the infected person to Apple, Google or governments, the companies said. But there are privacy concerns, which President Trump acknowledged Friday, saying his administration would "take a very strong look at it." The ACLU said it will work to ensure the technology is employed "only for public health purposes and only for the duration of this pandemic." Apple and Google have come up with a plan that addresses privacy issues, an ACLU lawyer said, "but there is still room for improvement." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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