Apple and Google join forces, design a Contract Tracing App to fight coronavirus

In the whole world, government and health organizations are working so hard to come out from the pandemic. Even NGOs and universities around the world have been doing a significant job to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. Two Tech Giants announced a joint effort and collaborate to effect Contact tracing to smartphones on April 10. The project is known by the codename 'bubble' to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to encourage the entire nation to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

This is quite unusual for Apple to launch the application in much less time because the company is too plagued with making its products perfect before releasing them to the world. But, the employees of both companies worked continuously with the support of two sponsors, Craig Federighi and Jeff Williams. Then, after a week later, Google had officially come on board. The CEOs of both the companies Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai gave final approval to the project named "BUBBLE"

The system is planned in two phases. The first phase had launched in mid-may which comprises an Application Programming Interface (API) being released to concede for apps devised by the public health authorities to interact with digital contact tracing data. This indicates if users want to take part in the system, they would have to download a specific app by their local health authority.

Then, the second face attained in the upcoming months which comprises a broad iOs and Android system update to integrate the contact tracing tool into each smartphone's operating system. In this, users will not have to download a specific app to opt-in but instead, be authorized to activate contact tracing through a menu option in their phone settings.

Using Bluetooth, smartphones can log other phones they have been imminent. If someone infected, there is a quick list of their prior encounters. Phones on the list would get push notifications placing them to get tested or self-quarantined. Phones can log one another even when 15 feet apart, even cough is not considered as a light problem in these cases. But developers are working to define better contacts based on the length and strength of so-called handshakes between devices.

Users of Android as well as Apple iOS devices can download the app from Google Play Store. The app would then omit special Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions, that will be seized by the other devices within about six feet. People, who have tested positive for COVID-19 can update their status on the app. Then, the app will alert the users who came in contact with the affected people. The research done by Oxford University asserts that these techniques may be the most reliable way to slow transmission and allow countries to get back their normal life. The study suggests that almost half of the transmissions occur in the early phase of infection.

Apple and Google prohibit location tracking 

Apple and Google issued guidelines public health authorities must follow to administer contacting Apps on Google Play or App Store for Android and iOS respectively. The app obstructs the use of location services. Apple and Google said that they will not authorize the use of GPS data for tracing. The settlement requires public health authorities who want to use GPS data to detect encounters using Bluetooth sensors. 
Privacy experts have warned that location data will lead to the issue of privacy and security.

Is Privacy Matters?

While proclaiming this initiative, both companies Apple and Google have stressed that users have consented to participate in contact tracing, that the apps won't collect personal information, and that the people who test positive are not identified to anyone else. Such kind of contract-tracing apps is extensively used by other countries like South Korea and Singapore.

American Civil Liberties Union surveillance and cybersecurity counsel, wrote in a public statement that the contract-tracing app is used only for the public health concerns during this pandemic.

Further, the question stands about the Accuracy of Bluetooth. Some have agonized with Bluetooth could yield fast positive matches, though it is not clear exactly how Apple and Google will implement the proximity features of BLE technology. But notwithstanding potential drawbacks, this tool represents one of the most pretentious private-public partnerships in recent history. This is how the tech companies are injecting their resources into public health crises, not only for their own shake.

Countries Using ContractTracing Apps

Thousands of efforts to develop contact tracing apps are undertaken in the entire world. Singapore is using the method via Bluetooth with an app named 'Trace Together'. Israel also has an app "The Shield" which he's in tracking case of COVID -19. South Korea is on the list as well, using mobile phone location data for contact tracing. On the other hand, Taiwan uses it for quarantine enforcement and is developing an app.

 The government of India has also originated the Aarogya Setu App to trace the cases of COVID-19. This app alerts the general public to stay away from that area where the case is being found in order to protect our lives. Apart from this, Government has launched a special Interactive Voice Response Service (IVRS) along with the Tamil Nadu government for people with featured phones.

Contact Tracers are in high demand

In the absence, of the vaccine, contact tracing is the most immediate solution that promotes people worldwide. With U.S. unemployment currently around 15% and over 26 million applying for unemployment benefits. There is a huge need for a job almost everywhere around the world. One of the new jobs in the market is becoming a Contract Tracer. It is very important for the growth of the economy to invest efforts in contract tracking. 
According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the United States requires about almost 1,84,000 contact tracers. The Contract Tracing Workforce Estimator Tool is to demonstrate the need for contact tracers at the state and country level.

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