Apple and Google, who together control over 99 percent of the global smartphone operating system market, are joining forces to track contact between carriers of the Chinese virus and other individuals, using smartphone location data.
The partnership was announced in a post on Google’s blog earlier today:
Across the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect people and get society back up and running. Software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health organizations have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be 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.
The tech giants plan to release application programming interfaces (API) that allow apps from public health authorities to be interoperable between Google Android and Apple iOS devices.
The companies also promise a “broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms,” meaning contact tracing will be part of the Android and iOS platforms themselves.
The blog post promises that the tracking will only be enabled if users “choose to opt in,” but Google’s guarantees to its users about tracking have often proven empty. An investigation by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in 2018, for example, found that Android phones can track you even when disconnected or in flight mode.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has previously called out Google for failing to provide users with easy ways to opt out of its massive data collection apparatus, which is central to the tech giant’s business model.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.