- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Apple and Google said Wednesday they made their coronavirus contact-tracing technology available to public health officials around the world.

The tech titans’ collaborative contact-tracing project is a Bluetooth-based system that operates on phones to track people’s potential exposure to coronavirus-infected people.

Following early public opinion polling showing many Americans were hesitant to opt-in to the contact tracing plan, Apple and Google reframed its plan as involving “exposure notifications” instead of “contact tracing.”

“Starting today, our Exposure Notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android [operating systems],” said Apple and Google in a joint statement. “What we’ve built is not an app—rather public health agencies will incorporate [application programming interfaces] into their own apps that people install.”

Apple and Google emphasized that the “Exposure Notifications” system does not collect location information of users.

However, both Apple and Google are separately collecting location information via their Apple Maps and Google Maps properties to monitor where people are gathering around the world amid social distancing guidelines. Such information is then shared with those examining how to tailor social distancing policies, including via publication on Google under its “COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports” webpage and on Apple’s website under its “Mobility Trends Reports” webpage.

Google is providing certain epidemiologists with anonymized data used to develop its mobility reports, meaning select epidemiologists have access to non-public raw data about users’ whereabouts. Google has indicated it intends to make public the names of the epidemiologists it has provided non-public information.

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