Last month, both Apple and Google rolled out new COVID-19 contact tracing tools with the goal of helping curb the spread of COVID-19 and alert people who have been in contact with someone infected.
The companies announced the joint effort on April 10 and Apple rolled out the plan with its iOS 13.5 which was released on May 20.
The contact tracing is called "COVID-19 Exposure Logging" and is automatically turned off. To get to it, you have to go to settings – privacy – health – and COVID-19 Exposure Logging.
According to Apple, you can't turn on Exposure Logging without an authorized app that can send exposure notifications. That app will likely have to be from local, state or federal health authorities.
"Once enabled, users’ devices will regularly send out a beacon via Bluetooth that includes a random Bluetooth identifier — basically, a string of random numbers that aren’t tied to a user's identity and change every 10-20 minutes for additional protection. Other phones will be listening for these beacons and broadcasting theirs as well. When each phone receives another beacon, it will record and securely store that beacon on the device. At least once per day, the system will download a list of the keys for the beacons that have been verified as belonging to people confirmed as positive for COVID-19. Each device will check the list of beacons it has recorded against the list downloaded from the server. If there is a match between the beacons stored on the device and the positive diagnosis list, the user may be notified and advised on steps to take next," Apple said in a FAQ, which you can read below.
Michigan AG Dana Nessel and 38 other attorneys general asked Google and Apple to ensure all apps protect personal information.
They asked the companies to guarantee that they are also removed from the stores when no longer needed.
"Technology can provide valuable resources like digital contact tracing and enhance our understanding of this deadly virus, but that tool must be wielded appropriately so it does not infringe upon the privacy of our residents,” Nessel said. “Google and Apple must minimize these risks to consumers’ personal information, including sensitive health information.”
To protect consumers without interfering with public health efforts to monitor and address the spread of COVID-19, the letters ask Google and Apple to:
- Verify that every app labeled or marketed as related to contact tracing, COVID-19 contact tracing, or coronavirus contact tracing or exposure notification is affiliated with a municipal, county, state or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the U.S. that is working with such public health authorities;
- Remove any app that cannot be verified as affiliated with one of the entities identified above; and
- Pledge to remove all COVID-19/coronavirus-related exposure notification and contact tracing apps from Google Play and the App Store once the COVID-19 national emergency ends. In addition, the attorneys general asked Google and Apple to provide written confirmation to their offices once the apps have been removed or an explanation why removal of a particular app or apps would impair the public health authorities affiliated with each app.