On Monday, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google declared that they would ban the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contract tracing system which aims to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Last month, Apple and Google said last month that they would work together to create a system for notifying people who have been near others who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The companies will allow only the public health authorities to use the technology.
Both the companies expressed their concerns over the privacy of the users as the system uses Bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.
Last month, the developers of the COVID-19 tracking apps in several US states told Reuters that it’s important to allow the GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots. The restriction on GPS data collection will need public health authorities that want to access GPS locations to rely on what Apple and Google have described as unstable, battery draining workarounds.
The alternative way may avoid some encounters as iPhones and Android devices turn off Bluetooth connections after some time for battery-saving and other reasons unless users remember to re-activate them.
Software company Twenty, developed the state of Utah’s Healthy Together contact tracing app with both GPS and Bluetooth.
“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,” Twenty said.