Apple and Google today announced a joint effort that will see them using Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world.
Apple says that user privacy and security will be central to the design of the project. Participation will be opt-in, and privacy, transparency, and consent are “of the utmost importance of this effort.”
Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.
Starting in May, Apple and Google will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These apps will be available for users to download from the iOS App Store and Google Play.
Contact tracing can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and can be done without compromising user privacy. We’re working with @sundarpichai & @Google to help health officials harness Bluetooth technology in a way that also respects transparency & consent. https://t.co/94XlbmaGZV
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) April 10, 2020
In the coming months, Google and Apple will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-baed contact tracing platform by building this functionality into their underlying platforms. Apple says that this solution is more robust than an API and will allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, and it will enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.
All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.
All information about the work being conducted by Apple and Google will be openly published and built in consultation with interested stakeholders. Initial details on the contact tracing technology are available on Apple’s new webpage for the feature, which has links to technical documentation on Bluetooth specifications, cryptography specifications, and the framework API.