Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google announced Friday that the companies will collaborate to provide tools to help track the spread of the new coronavirus.

Both companies will launch API (application programming interface) developer tools in May “to enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities,” when the apps will be available on the iTunes App, Apple said. Store and Google Play Store.

Experts have begun calling for the private sector to use “syndromic surveillance” technology that can be used to track the pandemic to help track the spread of the new coronavirus. Tech companies are especially well-positioned to do this because most Americans have phones with apps that can be installed, and government funding for “symptom monitoring” has dried up.

“Google and Apple have announced that they will work together to help governments and health agencies use Bluetooth technology to curb the spread of the virus, designed with user privacy and security at the core,” the companies said in a statement.

Bluetooth technology can be used to track the location of phones, and Apple and Google plan to launch tools that app developers can use to let people know when they’ve been exposed to someone with the coronavirus, a process known as “contact tracing.” ” (contact tracing). In both Android and iOS operating systems, users can monitor which apps can use Bluetooth technology to obtain location information, and can turn off tracking.

“In the coming months, Apple and Google will add this capability to the underlying platform to create a broader, Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform,” Apple said in a statement.

Google states on its website that if a user owns a phone with the app installed, they will be warned of exposure to the virus when they pass by a patient with the virus. Google said the app does not collect personally identifiable information or user location data, and that “information about people who test positive for the virus will not be seen by other Google or Apple users.” The app stores location data for about 14 days, which Google said “will only be used by public health authorities for contact tracing to control the coronavirus pandemic.”

Importantly, this “contact tracing” feature, which allows health officials to see who has been in close contact with an infected person to monitor the spread of the virus, requires user permission to turn on.

Countries such as Singapore have also used such apps to record human-to-human contact through mobile phones with “contact tracing” apps installed, and the data is stored on the phone for 21 days. In Singapore, Bluetooth signals are recorded as people approach each other, but no location data is collected.

Previously, Apple announced on March 27 that it will launch a new coronavirus screening website and app in cooperation with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (hereinafter referred to as “CDC”) and the White House, asking users questions about symptoms, location and risk factors, and then Provide them with the latest guidance from the CDC. In addition, Apple has partnered with Stanford University to develop an app to quickly screen suspected patients for symptoms.

Verely, an Alphabet subsidiary, has also launched a website directing people to local testing sites in the San Francisco area. In addition, Google created its own coronavirus information website and helped create an online unemployment application service in New York State. Google has also worked with public health officials to help it track compliance with “social distancing” policies.

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