Google and Apple update technical details of COVID-19 contact tracking technology to be deployed next month / Digital Information World

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  • COVID-19 contact tracking technology uses Bluetooth data instead of GPS location, and the most sensitive data is stored decentralized.
  • This approach caused a break with the planning systems of the European government.
  • The companies have also responded to the concerns of health and confidentiality researchers.

On Friday, Apple Inc. and Google Alphabet Inc. provided technical details on their next COVID-19 contact search technology, which was originally announced on April 10. The companies plan to roll out the new contact finder next month and have said the new features will further protect the security of the system. Google and Apple have also said the new features will provide health officials with more detailed data. The coronavirus contact tracking technology will use the Bluetooth system to help authorities create the relevant apps. These applications will alert users if they are near a patient who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The coronavirus contact tracking system uses Bluetooth technology instead of GPS location data, and the most sensitive data is stored on the user’s smartphone in a decentralized manner. This approach caused a break with European governments which planned systems supposed to record the data on centralized servers.

Applications created by these European governments will not function properly without the contact tracking technology created by Apple and Google. For example, apps developed by these governments may not work properly if the phone screen is locked.

Google and Apple have also addressed the privacy concerns of health officials and security researchers. Companies have made it difficult to track users thanks to the data generated by the coronavirus contact tracking systems. The system will randomly generate numbers that will analyze the users. The companies also said that “metadata” such as the user’s Bluetooth signal strength and smartphone models would be encrypted with primary information about the people with whom the users were close.

“Exposure time” is the length of time two smartphones have been close to each other. The companies said this exposure time would be rounded up to 5-minute intervals, which would prevent the use of detailed time information to match smartphones to users.

The researchers pointed out that the technology of contact tracing would be ineffective as Bluetooth signals penetrate through walls and other objects, which may not necessarily help spread the coronavirus. They also said that Bluetooth signals are also detected even if they are fragile, which means that the contact finder can also display false passers-by alerts in public places.

Google and Apple have addressed these concerns and have announced that they will now provide Bluetooth strength levels to better determine the distance between two smartphones and the exposure time. This data will allow authorities to set their thresholds for when to alert users.

Google and Apple will also provide authorities with data on the number of days since a user came into contact with an infected person. This will help the authorities to better guide users.

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