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Apple and Google Collaborate to Help Authorities Track COVID-19 Spread

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COVID-19 Tracking through Smartphones
 
COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly spread across the globe. The virus has severely affected millions of people putting an unprecedented burden on the healthcare systems of the countries of the world. Even the most developed countries are struggling to contain the virus and the hospitals are compelled to ration their resources.
In order to check the spread of the virus, it is important to trace the carriers effectively. To track this, the government of India has launched ‘Aarogya Setu App’ and has encouraged the people to download the same. The app allows the government to know if the person is abiding by the social distancing and quarantine norms. It also helps the government to figure out the contact persons of the infected person. The users, in turn, get updates about infections around them.
In an unusual move, rivals Google and Apple decided to join hands to help governments in tracing contacts of COVID-19 positive people in April. On Sunday, the “COVID-19 exposure notifications” feature appeared on Android and Apple phones everywhere.

Does the feature work in India?

As of now, the feature does not work in India in the way it does in other countries. The feature will only work in a phone that has downloaded an application that it works with. However, it is not an app that the companies have built. It is an API software that links up to the government’s own contact tracing applications.
India’s Aarogya Setu app has not linked up to the Apple-Google API. One of the reasons for this could be the fact that the API does not allow location data to be retrieved, while Aarogya Setu does. Additionally, the API does not allow public authorities to collect phone numbers from their users. The Aarogya Setu application collects such information during registration.

How does The Public Health Authority app work?

If two people meet for more than five minutes, their phones exchange an identifier via Bluetooth. If one of those people later tests positive and the data enters the government’s application, their contacts from the last 14 days are uploaded to the cloud. The person that the now-positive user had met will be matched as a previous contact and will be alerted with a notification on their phone.
Before this software update, in an interim step, the companies had released this feature in an application-form, requiring a user to download it. Now, the update is a built-in feature that can be turned on or off.

Which countries are using it?

According to news reports, the countries that have released applications that hooks up to the feature include Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the UK, and Uruguay. Other countries that have announced upcoming plans include Canada, Netherlands, Spain, and certain US states. Norway is comparing its own location taking application to the Google-Apple model.
The UK, in fact, drop its own application and is using the companies’ feature, after their application was found to have huge security flaws. Germany made a similar move earlier.