Apple and Google have announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the new coronavirus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
Apple and Google are launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.
Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy, Apple said in a statement
First, in May, the tech giants will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities.
These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
“Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms,” they informed.
“Contact tracing can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and can be done without compromising user privacy. We’re working with @sundarpichai & @Google to help health officials harness Bluetooth technology in a way that also respects transparency & consent,” tweeted Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread.
“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,” said Apple.
As part of this partnership, Google and Apple are releasing draft technical documentation including Bluetooth and cryptography specifications and framework documentation.
“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,” said Apple.