Apple and Google are jointly developing technology to alert people if they have recently come into contact with others found to be infected with coronavirus.
They hope to initially help third-party contact-tracing apps run efficiently.
But ultimately, they aim to do away with the need to download dedicated apps, to encourage the practice.
The two companies believe their approach – designed to keep users, whose participation would be voluntary, anonymous – addresses privacy concerns.
Their contact-tracing method would work by using a smartphone’s Bluetooth signals to determine to whom the owner had recently been in proximity for long enough to have established contagion a risk.
If one of those people later tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, a warning would be sent to the original handset owner.
No GPS location data or personal information would be recorded.
“Privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance in this effort and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders,” Apple and Google said in a joint statement.
“We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyse.”
Apple is the developer of iOS. Google is the company behind Android. The two operating systems power the vast majority of smartphones in use.
The two technology giants aim to bring coherence to all this by allowing existing third-party apps to be retrofitted to include their solution.
This would make the apps interoperable, so contact tracing would continue to work as people travelled overseas and came into contact with people using a different tool.
Apple and Google have been working on the effort for about two weeks but have not externally revealed their plans until Friday.
If successful, the scheme could help countries relax lockdowns and border restrictions.
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