Google and Apple to release a decentralised COVID-19 tracking tool

Soon, iOS and Android users will be able to opt into a decentralised COVID-19 tracking tool.

The main purpose of doing this is to find out whether you have come into contact with a coronavirus carrier.

In order to provide this functionality, the tracker sends an anonymous Bluetooth signal to nearby devices.

Based on the time spent in the vicinity of another device and the distance between them, a user will receive a notification that they may have been exposed to an individual who carries the coronavirus.

In certain parts of the globe, this has proven to be an effective way of pinpointing the hotspots of infections.

Although both Google and Apple claim that the tracker has a strong emphasis on privacy, there has been a great deal of criticism coming from privacy and security experts.

The companies have responded by claiming that it does not use location data; none of the data collected leaves the user’s device; and the identifiers are randomised and changed every 15 minutes.

On the other side of the argument spectrum, there are worries regarding possible system abuse, false positives and false negatives.

Apple aims to roll out the update to the highest amount of devices possible.

Since more than 75% are running the latest version of iOS, they will receive them soon.

Google is making an update to Google Play Services, so anyone using Android 6.0 or newer will receive the update.

Both companies are planning to roll out the completely optional tracker in mid-May.

It will be a part of the operating system – no additional app installation will be required.

The contact tracing API that comes with it will only be made available to public health authorities.

The infection confirmation will also be provided by them based on a positive test result.

Allegedly, any data collected will not be centralised, thus making government surveillance trickier.