Apple and Google partner to track COVID-19 cases with your phone

The world is in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and while we're all stuck at home, companies are looking for solutions. One possible solution, which other countries have used, is to use smartphones to track users' locations and see if they've been in contact with someone that has the virus.

Apple and Google today announced a partnership to do just that. Your device will use Bluetooth to tell if you've been near someone that's tested positive for COVID-19, and both companies are going to introduce APIs that hook into official apps from public health authorities. You'll also be able to report through these apps if you've tested positive, and that way, people that have been near you can be alerted that they've been in contact with someone that has the virus.

The APIs will be available in May, but in the coming months, Bluetooth-based contact tracking will be built into the "underlying platforms", meaning iOS and Android. The firms did say that security and privacy are "central to the design", so you'll still have to opt in for this to work. Your phone isn't going to start tracking you (more than it already does) without your consent.

While there are certainly privacy implications to contact tracing, it's also one of the most effective ways to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. It would allow you to know if you've come into contact with someone that has it, but only if that infected individual has opted in as well. Moreover, there might be a parallel between people breaking social distancing rules, and people that choose not to opt into the new service.

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