Apple and Google have this week launched an auto-generated software framework to make it easier for states to launch Covid-19 contract tracing applications. The new software is an extension of the first Exposure Notification software which was first launched in April this year.
The iOS version will be built into iOS 13.7 and, for Android users, the framework will be available later this month for Android 6.0 or higher. The API, which relies on Bluetooth smartphones technology, will notify people when they come into close contact with a person who’s tested positive for Covid-19.
In a statement, Apple and Google said:
As the next step in our work with public health authorities on Exposure Notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the Exposure Notifications System without the need for them to build and maintain an app. Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security.
The API has been developed largely to take the burden of developing such an app while responding to all the other curveballs the pandemic has thrown our way, which is unlike anything we’ve dealt with in recent years. “Offering a turn-key solution such as EN Express can greatly reduce their burden and eliminate many of the up-front requirements of building an app and setting up servers, Scott J. Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), said in a statement. This is great because, as The Verge states, only six out of the 21 states looking into developing a contact tracing app have actually rolled one out. It will also make it so that notifications can be sent between states.
It’s important to note – although a lot of people believed otherwise when the framework first became available on Apple and Android phones – this is not an app. It also hasn’t been force downloaded onto anybody’s phone (again, because it isn’t an app). It’s actually just the application programming interface (API) which has been made available on your phones. In order for this function to be active, you’ll have to download and install an actual Covid-19 tracing app.
While there will be some data collection on behalf of Google and Apple, the companies ensure that details about whether a specific person has been exposed to the virus will not be identified or collected.
States already committed to the system include Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington, D.