Apple and Google are building a system to warn smartphone owners if they’ve interacted with anyone who has COVID-19

April 10th

Apple and Google are building COVID-19 tracking into iOS and Android to warn people when someone they’ve come in contact with tests positive for the virus.

The platform, which will be optional on iOS and Android, will exchange anonymous data with nearby phones using low energy bluetooth keys. Keys are unique to each phone, change regularly, and are anonymous but for certain data, like whether the key owner has tested positive for COVID-19.

After two people meet, their keys remain on each others’ phones for 14 days, according to Google. If you met with someone a week ago who tested positive today, you will receive a notification once they update their app with their positive test result.

The platform, somewhat similar to the contact tracing apps popular in China and South Korea, will be optional for users of either operating system. Engineers at both companies began working on the tools two weeks ago, according to TechCrunch.

The companies will release the tool and its underlying infrastructure in two steps. In May, they will release APIs that will allow iOS and Android devices to share information with each other and other tools provided by national health authorities. Then, the companies will release the data exchange.

According to their joint press release:

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. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort.