Apple and Google launched a major joint effort to leverage smartphone technology to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
New software the companies plan to add to phones would make it easier to use Bluetooth wireless technology to track down people for who may have been infected by coronavirus carriers. The idea is to help national governments roll out apps for so-called “contact tracing” that will run on iPhones and Android phones alike.
Software developers have already created such apps in countries including Singapore and China to try to contain the pandemic. In Europe, the Czech Republic says it will release such an app this month. Britain, Germany and Italy are among other countries developing such apps.
Apple and Google plan to release their toolkit in May and say user privacy and security are baked into its design. Privacy and civil liberties activists have warned that such apps need to be so governments cannot abuse them to track their citizens.
Security experts also note that technology alone cannot effectively track down and identify people who may have been infected by COVID-19 carriers. Such efforts will require public health care workers to track people in the physical world as well as other tools, they say. In South Korea and China, such efforts have included credit card and public transit records.