Apple and Google ban use of location tracking in contact tracing apps

Apple and Google said they will not allow the use of GPS data along with the contact tracing systems.

Apple and Google have said that they would ban the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system the two are building to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Apple and Google, whose operating systems power 99 percent of smartphones, said last month they would work together to create a system for notifying people who have been near others who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease sometimes caused by the coronavirus.

Both companies said that privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses Bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

Representational Image. Credit: tech2

Representational Image. Credit: tech2

But the developers of coronavirus-related apps in several US states told Reuters last month that it was vital that they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system in order to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots.

Apple and Google on Monday said they will not allow use of GPS data along with the contact tracing systems. That decision will require public health authorities who want to use GPS location data to rely on unstable workarounds to detect encounters using Bluetooth sensors.

Last week, Apple and Google announced that they would release two early versions of the system this week.

The rare collaboration is expected to accelerate usage of apps that aim to get potentially infected individuals into testing or quarantine more quickly and reliably than existing systems in much of the world. Such tracing will play a vital role in managing the virus once lockdowns end, health experts say.

Apple and Google plan to release the final version of their tools by mid-May after the developers complete the testing.

With inputs from Reuters.

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