Android-iOS Apple and Google Announce a COVID-19 Tracking Feature for all Smartphones By Elinsys, 02nd Jul 2020

Earlier, Apple and Google announced that they were making a COVID tracking app. It is now a fact that the Apple and Google’s exposure tools have been rolled out in India. There may be privacy concerns, but they may not be real.

So, if you check your iPhone privacy settings under “Health”, there is something called the COVID-19 exposure logging. Similarly for an Android phone, there is a COVID-19 exposure logging. This is an inbuilt exposure notification tool that can be used to track COVID-19  patients and their contacts.

India, in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak had launched a similar app – Arogya Setu. This app could track the COVID-19 patients and their contacts.

There are however a few differences in which the Apple and Android apps work that set them apart from the Arogya Setu app.

Amidst all this, there was a viral message that took over whatsapp saying that the Apple and Google app could track down every Indian with a smartphone.

So, what’s exactly happening? Here’s what’s happening and here are the facts.

  • ‘Exposure Notification’ API for Apple and Google has been under development for quite some time now. However this API does not expose any details unless you allow it to.
  • Turning on the Exposure Notification, you will also need to install an authorized app that can send these Exposure Notifications. So, it’s not true that the app sends any kind of notifications or tracks anything unless it has been authenticated by you.
  • Further, This app – can be made only by the government or a government authorized agency.
  • Only one such app is allowed per country!
  • The exposure notification feature, even if on the phone, will not work until the government makes an app that can use this feature.
  • In case of India, the Arogya Setu app does not use the same APIs as the Apple and Google app and hence the two cannot work together. (Unless the government can modify it to work with the Apple and Google API)
  • Many governments around the world are making COVID-19 tracking apps to keep a track of the infections. The phones can then communicate with other phones that have these apps installed and random IDs are collected and stored. The app is capable of notifying you if you come in contact with any other COVID-19 infected person.
  • All this is done without revealing the identity of the person.

While such apps are the need of the hour, data privacy and device security are always a concern. These apps however will help people and the government to keep up the fight against the pandemic.

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