Apple, Google ranked first in applications in the new COVID-19 disclosure notification technology

• Apple and Google announced on Tuesday a new feature to simplify the implementation of their public reporting tool COVID-19 by eliminating the need for healthcare groups in the region to create or maintain their own application. The move will almost certainly exacerbate the company’s privacy concerns as the tech giants create their own apps to notify them of disclosures that were previously under the auspices of approved health authorities.

• Public health authorities using the new system called Exposure Notifications Express provides basic information to Apple and Google, such as B. Contacting the authority, COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations as well as name, logo, and criteria. Outreach agencies encourage notification. Apple and Google will then use the information to create an appropriate disclosure notification system compatible with this public health organization.

• Maryland, Nevada, and Virginia, along with Washington, D.C., will be the first states to implement the system. It will be available to other states later this fall, both companies announced on Tuesday.

Despite repeated calls from public health experts and for a long time, the Trump administration has made little concrete progress in implementing a national contact tracking infrastructure. States are catching up slowly, but due to the lack of national connections, there is an uncontrolled spread of coronavirus in the United States, which has affected about six million people to date.

Apple and Google first launched their system at the end of May. The software uses Bluetooth radios in iOS and Android systems to monitor the distances between phones. Users are notified when their phone is near an infected person.

The second phase, which started Tuesday and is based on input received during 100 briefings with public health officials, epidemiologists, and application developers, aims to streamline the use of the system by health authorities by adding many of the initial requirements for the creation and configuration of a system can be eliminated application. Server too.

As Google and Apple build the apps, health officials are reviewing the risk assessments that will trigger a notification, recommended next steps, and guidelines for people exposed to new contract containment and monitoring initiatives. The iOS and Android tools are compatible with each other and with existing exposure notification applications.

Public health authorities can always create their own custom apps if they so choose.

Spokespersons for both companies stressed that the tool was “another option” for states “without compromising the project’s core principles of privacy and user security.”

According to an April survey by the Kaiser family, people are twice as likely to download a contact tracking app if it’s managed by their state or local department or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention than if it’s managed by a private one Technology company is managed. . Foundation, endowment.

And privacy concerns have haunted the project from the start, despite Apple and Google touting this as comprehensive privacy protection. The system is completely optional and does not disclose user location or identity data to companies. Google and Apple have also committed to shutting down the regional streaming system when it is no longer needed.

However, servers can identify people in other ways, e.g. B. by IP addresses. There is also a risk of false positives in the system triggering false warnings. And users decide whether to report a positive COVID-19 diagnosis so a human error or simple apathy could turn out to be another problem.

On Tuesday, Apple users in states using Exposure Notifications Express upgrades to iOS 13.7 will receive a notification that the service is available. If you want, you can activate the function without having to download a separate app.

Android users will receive a notification from the service at the end of the month but will be asked to download a Google-created app from their health department.

The two technology giants emphasize that the system is not a substitute for tracking physical contacts.

The effectiveness of push notification apps depends on the number of users. According to researchers from the Covid-Watch contact tracing project, around 60% of the population need them to be used in order to be useful.

To date, more than 20 countries and regions have published software applications. In the United States, 25 states and Washington, DC tested the system, and six states were formed, representing approximately 55% of the population: Virginia, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alabama, Arizona, and Nevada.

According to Norman Oliver, commissioner for the State Department of Health in Virginia, the first state to be available with an infrastructure-based app in early August, nearly half a million citizens downloaded the app in the first few weeks.

Apple and Google are also working with the Association of Public Health Laboratories to install a national keyserver that will allow systems to operate across state lines regardless of where you live.