Google and Apple are in the process of developing a tracking tool that will monitor the contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, although some governments demand to create their own databases.
On Friday, Google and Apple said that their contact tracing technology would allow users to control their data, and the system will most probably shut down once the pandemic has been dealt with.
“Each user will have to make an explicit choice to turn on the technology. It can also be turned off by the user at any time,” a document released by the Silicon Valley firms revealed. “This system does not collect data from your device and does not share identities of other users to each other, Google or Apple. The user controls all data they want to share, and the decision to share it.” The document further stated.
This announcement comes as health agencies around the world scramble to develop apps that use Bluetooth in smartphones to help track the spread of coronavirus by detecting when a person is in proximity to a sick person.
This program will be released in early May. The document further revealed that public health authorities would be allowed to access the technology, but any apps they use must meet certain criteria around security, privacy, and data control.
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The two companies further stated that exposer notification data would be stored and processed on the device, not on government servers. It means that the government authorities will only be able to access beacons if a person confirmed to be COVID-19 positive has opted to share.
This news comes after a heated debate continues over contact tracing and its impacts. Some experts claim that the program may help lower the spread of the virus by informing people when they cross paths with infected persons. However, privacy activists feel that the database could be used to surveil people even after the pandemic and should not be encouraged.
Both companies have suggested that the system is likely to be shut off after the pandemic, to allay the concerns over privacy and surveillance. The document said, “Google and Apple can disable the exposure notification system on a regional base when it is no longer needed.”