Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google updated technical details of the coronavirus contact tracking system they plan to release next month, saying new features would strengthen privacy protection and provide health authorities with more detailed information.
The system, announced on April 10, will use Bluetooth technology to allow authorities to build apps to warn people who have been around people who have tested positive new coronavirus. The technology does not use GPS location data and decentralizes the most sensitive data on users’ phones. This approach broke with the scheduling systems of European governments that would store data on centralized servers.
Without the Apple Google technology, apps built by those governments will face limitations such as needing to unlock a phone’s screen to work properly. Health and privacy researchers also mentioned privacy issues that the companies addressed Friday by making it more difficult to use system-generated data to track people.
The numbers identifying users are randomly generated and so-called “metadata” such as Bluetooth signal strength and users’ phone models are now encrypted along with primary data about who they have been around. & # 39; Exposure Time & # 39; or how long two phones are together is rounded at 5 minute intervals to avoid using detailed time data to tailor phones to people.
The companies also sought to address health researchers’ concerns that the system would not be effective. Since Bluetooth signals can penetrate some walls and may even be noticed briefly and weakly, researchers were concerned about false reports from neighbors in apartment buildings or passers-by in public areas. Apple and Google will now provide data on Bluetooth power levels to better estimate how close two phones came together and for how long, so that authorities could set their own thresholds for alerting people.
The companies also said they would provide data on the number of days that had passed since the last contact with an infected person, to help authorities inform users of the steps to be taken.