Apple and Google release new COVID-tracing tech.
Many governments have already tried to roll out their own phone apps to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and although these plans seem ambitious, most have been unsuccessful, but now, amid a reopening in almost all U.S. states, Apple and Google have released the software that will notify people if they might have been exposed to COVID.
According to AP News, the companies said the new technology — the product of a rare partnership between the rival tech giants — solves some of the main technical challenges that governments have had in building Bluetooth-based apps. It will make it easier for iPhones and Android phones to detect each other, work across national and regional borders and fix some of the problems that led previous apps to quickly drain a phone’s battery. The identity of app users will be protected by encryption and anonymous identifier beacons that change frequently.
Some privacy advocates have favored the Google-Apple approach because it offers more privacy and security. But others, including Ryan Calo, a law professor who co-directs the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab, said he is concerned about its effectiveness if people get too many false alerts asking them to quarantine themselves. He said public health agencies would be better off being able to track location with careful safeguards. Calo said Google and Apple have been more upfront about the limitations of their model, but he said he’s still worried some governments will treat it as a substitute for crucial investments in free, widespread testing and hiring an army of human contact tracers. “We’re just not going to get out of this global pandemic with a clever app,” he said.