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Apple and Google Ban Location-Based Tracking in Contact Tracing Apps


Two tech giants – Apple and Google – have recently announced unanimously that they are banning location-based tracking in contact tracing apps. The two have previously partnered to work on a contact tracing system that will be leveraged to help fight the spread of covid-19.

The Apple-Google partnership was to release a solution that helps health authorities and governments in the contact tracing. The system would notify people who have been near others who have tested positive for covid-19, Reuters reported.

With privacy at the back of their mind, the system will only be used by public health authorities and not by government authorities, the companies said. The tech behemoths have also pledged to discontinue the system once the ongoing public health crisis is over.

Last month, Google and Apple said the system will be built with both “user privacy and security central to the design.” The system is built around two major pillars: application programming interfaces (APIs) and on the operating system-level.

To upheld users’ privacy, the system solely relies on Bluetooth technology and does not use location for proximity detection. Health authorities who might want to access GPS location data will, therefore, be forced to rely on “unstable, battery-draining workarounds.”

Yesterday, the two shared few tidbits on the upcoming automatic exposure notification system. You can see sample UIs in the pictures shown below.

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Other restrictions include opt-in consent before accessing the API or sharing a positive diagnosis. The system will also be used by a single app per country, to prevent fragmentation. You can read more about the contact tracing system here.

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Alvin Wanjala

Alvin is a freelance tech journalist. Talk to me via email at alvinwanjala[at]pm[dot]me

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