On Monday, Apple and Google announced that they would prevent the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system the two are building to help 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 companies plan to allow only public health authorities to use the technology.

Both companies said 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.

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

The Apple-Google decision to not allow GPS data collection with their contact tracing system will need public health authorities that want to access GPS location to rely on what Apple and Google have described as unstable, battery-draining workarounds.

On Monday, software company Twenty, which developed the state of Utah’s Healthy Together contact tracing app with both GPS and Bluetooth, said that the app “operates effectively” without the new Apple-Google tool.

Twenty said that “If their approach can be more effective than our current solution, we’ll eagerly incorporate their features into our existing application, provided it meets the specifications of current and prospective public health partners.”

Canada’s Alberta province, which does not collect GPS data, mentioned that it has no plans to adopt the Apple-Google system for its ABTraceTogether app.

Privacy experts have warned that any cache of location data linked to health issues could make businesses and individuals vulnerable to being ostracised if the data is exposed.

On Monday, Apple and Google also mentioned that they will allow only one app per country to use the contact system, to avoid fragmentation and encourage wider adoption. The companies said they would, however, support countries that opt for a state or regional approach, and that US states will be allowed to use the system.

Source: https://gadgets.ndtv.com/apps/news/coronavirus-apple-google-contact-tracing-app-to-ban-location-info-tracking-2223401

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