Google, Apple work together on APIs to track COVID-19 spread: 5 details

Google and Apple teamed up to help governments and health agencies track the spread of COVID-19 using Bluetooth technology to track people who have come in contact with patients who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Five things to know:

1. Apple and Google plan to launch a comprehensive solution that will include application programming interfaces and operating system-level technology to help trace the spread of the virus. Public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to containing the spread of the virus and several universities and NGOs around the world have been doing work to develop opt-in contact tracing.

2. The companies plan to release APIs to enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities in May, and users can download them from their app store. This functionality will be built into the underlying platforms for both Google and Apple to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform.

3. Individuals can opt in to the new API, which will allow them to interact with additional apps and government and health authorities.

4. Both companies will implement these changes while also keeping strong protections around user privacy, according to a news release from the companies. "Privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders," the companies stated in the release.

5. The companies plan to publish information about their work for others to analyze, and have already released a draft of technical documentation that includes Bluetooth and cryptography specifications.

"All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life," the companies stated in the release.

More articles on health IT:
10 things to know about data sharing, HIPAA during the coronavirus
5 things for CISOs to know amid COVID-19 pandemic
Amazon opens COVID-19 'data lake' to hospitals

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