Coronavirus: Apple-Google Contact Tracing Tech Picks Up Steam as Germany Buys In

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As many countries attempt to develop tech to trace Wuhan coronavirus infections, Germany has reportedly adopted new contact tracing technology developed by Apple and Google.

Reuters reports that after initially attempting to develop its own Wuhan coronavirus tracing tech, Germany has decided to adopt new tracing technology developed by Apple and Google, joining a growing number of other European countries.

German Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a statement that the city of Berlin would adopt a “decentralized” approach to digital contact tracing meaning they would not be using a German-made system.

Apple and Google allege that unlike other systems, theirs will not collect location information or identifying information about those that test positive for the coronavirus. They also require that a person consent to the data that the companies do collect on them. The companies claim that health authorities will be able to include a way to verify that someone tested positive such as a QR code from a health care provider, addressing concerns that people could falsely claim that they tested positive.

Google and Apple have both reportedly made changes to their mobile operating systems to allow the devices to exchange a private key with nearby smartphones via  Bluetooth, logging when users come into close proximity. If an individual tests positive for the Wuhan coronavirus and enters that information into an app, 14 days’ worth of their contacts with other users is sent to a server.

The phones regularly check if any recently encountered individuals have been reported as infected and alerts users with a notification. The notification states that someone they have been in contact with has tested positive and provides them with more information. This system is running on mobile devices running iOS 13 or on any version of the Android operating system from 2015 on.

Up until recently, Germany was promoting a centralized system called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), which needed Apple to change settings on its iPhones. But Apple reportedly refused to change any settings which forced the German government to adopt Apple’s new system.

Bran and Spahn commented that Germany will now be using a “strongly decentralized” system. “This app should be voluntary, meet data protection standards and guarantee a high level of IT security,” they said. “The main epidemiological goal is to recognize and break chains of infection as soon as possible.”

One of the members of PEPP-PT, Germany’s Fraunhofer HHI research institute, was told over the weekend that it would be taken off the contact tracing project. Fraunhofer HHI head Thomas Wiegand said in a message to colleagues: “A series of grave errors were made by PEPP-PT regarding communication that, at the end of the day, caused serious damage and led to this decision.”

9to5Mac reports that Apple and Google are now using the term “Exposure Notification” to describe their system instead of “Contact Tracing” in an attempt to emphasize the benefit of the system and make it sound less like a surveillance system.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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