July 13, 2024

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Apple, Google give first look at coronavirus tracking tech


Apple and Google are working together on technology to help alert people when they may have been exposed to coronavirus.

Background by Pixabay/Photo by Angela Lang/CNET

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

Apple and Google moved a step closer to releasing a coronavirus tracking technology, showing off what an app may look like on people’s phones and also sharing sample pieces of code for local governments.

The contact tracing technology, which the two companies have been working on for more than a month, is designed to help people alert one another if someone they were in contact with over the past 14 days comes down with coronavirus. When the project was first announced, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google head Sundar Pichai promised the technology would be built with privacy in mind.

Apple Google exposure notification 1

The companies say they expect to work with public health officials around the world on exposure notification apps.

Apple and Google

The technology works by helping Apple iPhones or devices powered by Google’s Android software communicate with one another by signals to one another by using Bluetooth radio that’s built into phones. If someone then is diagnosed with coronavirus, a health official or doctor could enter a code into their phone, which would then send out a new signal alerting all the phones they’d come in contact with over the preceding 14 days.

On Monday, the two companies discussed how they will control who has access to the technology and how the companies will ensure people’s privacy. The companies said in a call with journalists that they will now allow health officials to collect location information or run targeted ads in the app. The companies also said they’ll encourage health officials to only create one app per country, which Apple and Google said they hope will encourage broader adoption by the public.

Apple’s and Google’s efforts are just the latest ways big tech companies have been working to help fight the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 250,000 people around the world, and infected more than 3.5 million people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet, last month launched a website that gives people in California information about virus testing. The website, developed in partnership with the White House, lets people fill in symptoms and complete an online screener. Apple as well has built a website and app to help inform people about the coronavirus. 

Both companies have also added prominent links to coronavirus information in their respective news aggregation apps and homepages. And the two companies have both also begun making and distributing protective equipment for health care workers.

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