Apple and Google address privacy issues with coronavirus tracking technology – ABOUT MAG 2020

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

As companies and governments around the world struggle against coronavirus pandemic, Apple and Google are making changes to the contact tracking technology they were developed to help inform people when they may have been exposed to the virus.

The contact tracking technology, in which the two companies have been working for just over a month, was initially designed to help people be alert if someone with whom they were in contact for a period of 14 days was diagnosed with the coronavirus. When the project was first announced, the Apple CEO Tim cook and Sundar Pichai, head of Google, promised that the technology would be built with privacy in mind.


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The technology basically works by helping Apple iPhone or devices equipped with Google Android software communicate with each other. They do this by sending signals to each other via the Bluetooth radio stored on the phones. If someone is confirmed to have the coronavirus, their phones will send a new signal alerting all phones with which they have contacted in the previous 14 days.

The efforts of Apple and Google are just the most recent ways in which large technology companies are working to help fight the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 200,000 people worldwide and infected more than 2.7 million people.

In fact, the life science arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet last month launched a website which provides people in California with information about virus testing. The website, developed in partnership with the White House, allows people to fill in symptoms and complete an online exam.

Google also last month said it is committing more than $ 800 million to help small businesses and crisis responders dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Apple and Google also started making and distributing Protection equipment for healthcare professionals.

Now, with this new coronavirus tracking technology, two of Silicon Valley’s biggest rivals hope to help create applications that help us regain a sense of normality while waiting for a vaccine or other ways to fight the virus.

New privacy protections

Apple and Google said the technology will be activated, which means it will not be activated by default. The companies will offer programming tools to developers in mid-May, allowing health officials to build applications with this new technology. Apple and Google plan to offer software updates to the more than 2 billion active devices worldwide using the software by the end of the year.

Apple said it includes any phone that can iOS 13 power, the company’s latest software, which runs on devices since the iPhone 6S, which was initially launched in 2015.

Companies started discussing the project two weeks ago, sharing initial planning documents publicly offer researchers, partners and security critics a way to start evaluating technology.

To ensure more security, Apple and Google said they would change the contact tracking program to use better encryption, shuffling any identifying information to ensure that people could not be tracked. Companies are also protecting any potentially identifiable information about a person’s phone, such as which phone model they are using or the signal strength of their broadcasts.

Apple and Google expect health officials to create applications, the companies said, but they will also provide assistance. The companies said that it will be easy to create an application for this project. And for health officials who don’t want to create their own, they can use a pre-made app that can be renamed.

Call it ‘exposure notification’

Companies are also changing the terminology used, moving away from the widely used term “contact tracking, “which could increase privacy anxiety for people. Instead, they’re calling this system”exposure notification, “saying it best describes the program’s functionality, while companies begin to emphasize that the program” preserves privacy “.

It is not yet clear whether the software from Apple and Google will ultimately win people over. The companies admitted that they do not know the minimum number of people that is necessary for the system to be effective. Experts believe that at least half the population would have to choose, which means that companies would need to potentially convince billions of people to sign up.

As part of their efforts to attract people, Apple and Google have pledged to dismantle the system when the coronavirus crisis passes. This will include turning off the application programming interface, or API, designed to work with the public health applications being created.

“The promise that Apple and Google will turn off the API is very welcome,” Jennifer Stisa Granick, ACLU’s cyber security and surveillance consultant, said earlier this month. “We just want to make sure that this is verifiable and that there will be an independent review to ensure that the commitments they have made are something they are fulfilling.”

Paula Fonseca