Apple, Google plan new software - GulfToday

Apple, Google plan new software

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People walk past an Apple outlet in Beijing. Agence France-Presse

Apple and Google said that they would work together to create contact tracing technology that aims to slow the spread of the coronavirus by allowing users to opt into logging other phones they have been near.

The rare collaboration between the two Silicon Valley companies, whose operating systems power 99% of the world’s smartphones, could 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 lockdown orders end, health experts say.

The planned technology also throws the weight of the tech leaders into a global conflict between privacy advocates who favor a decentralized system to trace contacts and governments in Europe and Asia pushing centralized approaches that have technical weaknesses and potentially let governments know with whom people associate.

“With Apple and Alphabet Google, you get all the public health functions you need with a decentralized and privacy-friendly app,” said Michael Veale, University College London legal lecturer involved in European contact tracing system DP3T. Centralized solutions such as those proposed in Britain and Germany would no longer work under the new technology, he said.

To be effective, the Silicon Valley system would require millions of people to opt in the system, trusting the technology companies’ safeguards, as well as smooth oversight by public health systems.

The companies said they started developing the technology two weeks ago to streamline technical differences between Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android that had stymied the interoperation of some existing contact tracing apps.

Reuters

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