Do you know that Google and Apple teamed up to develop something extraordinary? Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. join together to ban location tracking in contact tracing apps. Both companies are determined to collaborate in developing a system that will provide complete analytics of COVID-19 infected patients and the healthy population.
The concept of contact tracing was introduced to impede the community-spread of COVID-19. Researchers at Oxford University proposed a computer model indicating the success rate of contact tracing. It suggested that if 56% of the United Kingdom population install the contact tracing app, the country virus spread will cease.
Did it work?
Before digging into the actual report of Google and Apple banning contact tracing apps, allow us to discuss contact tracking first.
Contact Tracing Apps (Contact Tracking) – What is it?
As the name indicates, contact tracing means tracking people with whom you are or were in contact. When considering COVID-19 spread, contact tracking helps determine the people at higher risk of catching the virus. The proactive approach of contact tracing examines potential exposure to COVID-19 infected people and informs vulnerable people suggesting them to quarantine themselves if the symptoms are severe.
When registering the diagnosed COVID-19 infected patients, the health authorities get complete details by asking the patient with whom he/she was in contact in the previous weeks.
The use of digital technology to address the Novel Corona Virus issue was somehow proved to be beneficial in the starting days.
If the contact tracing apps were going so well, why Apple and Google have decided to ban contact tracing?
Let us throw some light on the recent COVID-19 tracking methods and see what made Apple and Google announce such a collaboration.
Ban on Contact Tracing Apps – What Would Be The Reason?
Contact tracing via mobile apps did not provide the expected results due to some declining factors;
Not everyone was interested in installing a contact tracer in their mobile phone/tablet. Because of the shortage of data, it became difficult to provide the expected outcome.
The government has access to contact tracing applications, which made the users concerned about their details being monitored or compiled by the government.
The contact tracing apps were not as efficient in providing user privacy and data security.
In April 2020, Alphabet Inc’s Google announced that both the companies would team up to create a tracking system that will notify people about the infected COVID-19 people in their surroundings. The companies also proclaimed that only public health organizations would have the authority to use such technology.
The Invention of Apple & Google to Track COVID-19 Cases:
Google and Apple, both the big companies powering 99% of the mobile OS, announced the development of a Bluetooth-based digital system to detect physical encounters between infected and healthy people. Such a system helps you avoid unnecessary GPS location tracking and provide more user security than contact tracers.
The system utilizes Bluetooth and does not interact with GPS tracking; neither stores the location of the device.
The reason to provide a decentralized system is to transmit unidentified and randomize Bluetooth signals to detect the people present in helps users’ proximity.
It is in the hands of users to share or upload their anonymized data with other devices. Such a contact tracing system detect short-ranged Bluetooth signals and notifies the people if they have any COVID-19 infected patient around them.
You must be thinking if the new system to track COVID-19 cases is secure or not.
Let us clear the air regarding such uncertainty.
Is the New COVID-19 Tracking System Secure?
Of course, yes.
The system, developed by Apple and Google, to track COVID-19 cases, is expected to deliver promising outcomes.
However, as per the Reuters report, several official Corona-Virus apps stated that using the GPS location with the new contact tracing system is necessary. They also emphasized that utilizing a GPS tracking facility will help the tracing system identify the Corona Virus’ hotspots more effectively.
On the other side, the Google-Apple decision regarding tracking COVID-19 cases sticks to not using GPS tracking at any cost.
As per user-security and privacy experts’ views, if any health-related cache of location data gets exposed, businesses and individual security will get banished.
Do We Need to Upgrade Our Android or iOS device Receive the New Update?
As per Google’s announcement, the recently launched contact tracing system will be updated on Google Play Service that will automatically upgrade all the Android devices.
Apple ensures that all the iOS devices that run iOS 13 or more will get the update to upgrade their operating system and benefit from contact tracing.
How About Data Centralisation? Is Your Data Secure?
Users often have the query regarding the data security of digital systems.
First of all, access to the contact tracing API is only limited to health authorities.
Secondly, user data will transmit only between health organizations around the globe. As per the tech experts, such decentralized data is much more difficult for governments to process and commence surveillance.
However, both Android and iOS devices are, somehow, vulnerable to hacking attacks. But the positive point is the user can knowingly turn on and off the Bluetooth of their devices. The new contact tracking system will not collect the user’s data without the user’s permission or consent.
Coronavirus has threatened us to the core. Health organizations and tech experts work side-by-side to set up a potent COVID-19 tracking system that ceases the deadly virus’s spread. The major reason of development a contact tracing system is an attempt to combat coronavirus spread. But the GPS tracking ability of such a system arouses many security threats. The most influential companies, Google and Apple, have introduced a new tracking system that detects the potential COVID-19 parents by determining the hotspots of the virus. The system runs on Bluetooth technology and provides much more security than the last version of contact tracing apps. Stay safe and track potential hotspots of coronavirus before it is too late.