Google and Apple are working on a joint effort to introduce opt-in Bluetooth-based COVID-19 contact tracing APIs in mid-May for iOS and Android.
The companies say the technology will not track the users' location or identity.
The idea is to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes the potentially fatal illness COVID-19 by “allowing users to opt into a system that catalogs other phones they have been near,” Reuters reports:
The rare collaboration between the two Silicon Valley companies, whose operating systems power 99% of the world’s smartphones, could accelerate usage of apps that aim to get potentially infected individuals into testing or quarantine more quickly and reliably than existing systems in much of the world.
The companies said they started developing technology two weeks ago to allow mobile devices to trade information via Bluetooth connections to alert people when they have been in close proximity with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the sometimes deadly respiratory disease associated with the novel coronavirus.
The technology will first be available in mid-May as software tools available to contact tracing apps endorsed by public health authorities, with Apple and Google approving use of the tools. However, Apple and Google also plan to release software updates in the coming months so that users do not have to download any apps to begin logging nearby phones.
The companies said the technology will not track the location or identity of users, but instead will only capture data about when users’ phones have been near each other, with data being decrypted on the user’s phone rather than the companies’ servers. GPS location data is not part of the effort, the companies said.
Some responses from Twitter, below.