Both Google and Apple have made individual efforts to contribute in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. The list includes Google’s Coronavirus online tracker, Apple’s Face Shield, Free Google Stadia Pro, and so on.
Now the two tech giants have joined forces to develop a new Coronavirus tracking tool for Android and iOS devices.
Apple and Google are working on a Bluetooth-powered COVID-19 tracker that will help health care organizations take advantage of contact tracing – a technique used to know whether people are in close proximity to any infected individual.
The initial goal is to bring cross-platform compatibility to health care apps running on Android and iOS devices. For that, the duo will release their respective APIs in the month of May, which will be integrated into apps from public health authorities.
In the bigger picture, Google and Apple want to integrate contact tracing technology into their respective platforms. So, the next step of this joint effort is to add OS-level changes to enable contact tracing technology in Android and iOS, which will be done in the coming months.
“This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities,” Google said in its blog post.
It was suggested in the past that GPS location data from smartphones could be analyzed to get a better idea of how the virus is spreading and whether people are following social distancing guidelines or not. But, of course, the idea was quick to invite privacy concerns.
Using Bluetooth to analyze and curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic seems more practical than using GPS. One of the major benefits is Bluetooth has an edge over GPS location when it comes to tracking people in close proximity.
However, the level of precision promised by the technology when combined with sensitive healthcare data has invited privacy concerns here as well.
The search giant assured that transparency and privacy are of “utmost importance” and said that the duo will “openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”
Nonetheless, the question remains, whether we want to trade some of our privacy in the name of safety or not? It’s a never-ending debate anyway.