In April, Google and Apple announced a rarely seen partnership– both technology conglomerates decided to join forces and produce the technology needed by developers to launch accurate contact tracing mobile applications. The goal for the two companies is to give developers the tools needed to create a smartphone and web applications that would allow health authorities to quickly implement a core disease control measure used for decades known as contact tracing.
The procedure consists of finding out groups of people who might have come across a sick person, essentially identifying people who might be infected as well as provide further information about the very same contacts. By tracing the people who might’ve been exposed, authorities hope that they would be able to test and treat people with Covid-19 and have a positive impact on decreasing the spread of the virus. Apple and Google are uniquely positioned to provide such information as currently, approximately 96% of the people living in the USA own a cellular device of any kind, and more than 80% of them are smartphone users.
Similar apps backed by governments have already been released in multiple countries across the globe – Israel, Singapore, and China were among the first ones to launch them. With the partnership between Apple and Google, the USA might be the next one to utilize the technology of geotracking in the fight against the novel coronavirus. However, sharing so much information with developers raise a whole lot of privacy concerns.
According to the Washington Post, the majority of Americans do not seem willing or are unable to use apps tracking coronavirus infections, which may throw a wrench into Apple and Google’s plans to slow the pandemic. Roughly three out of every five Americans say that they would be either unable or unwilling to use a contact tracking app. The main concern expressed by the Americans is the fact that health organizations have been subjects of hackers’ attacks in the past, and data breaches are not something rarely seen in the health industry. And the big tech companies will essentially have a working mechanism able to track not only people in North America but approximately half of the world’s population who are currently known to use smartphones.
According to statements released by both Apple and Google, the full app-dependent system is in testing and is expected to be released in the next few weeks. By the end of the summer, the companies are expected to have the system up and running for worldwide users too. Even though getting an alert that you are close to an infected person may seem tempting and it may provide a sense of security to app users on the move, the new contact tracing apps will sparkle a lot of conversations, especially in North America.