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Apple, Google Release Template for Contact Tracing Apps

The executives also declined to name the states or countries that have expressed interest in the technology. And unlike earlier designs, the application programming interface — the template — would not require information to be stored in a central database but instead would allow users to see on their own smartphones if they have been exposed to someone with the illness, company executives said. The companies engineered the design so as to ensure that Bluetooth signals can be sent and received even when a user’s phone is in sleep mode, and that such signal transmission would not drain devices’ batteries, the companies said. The goal of contact tracing is to have public health authorities track down anyone testing positive for the disease and figure out who they may have come into contact with during the previous two weeks and alerting those people to seek medical attention and isolate themselves. The design template would allow public health authorities to define parameters as they see fit, including specifying what constitutes exposure to an infected person, figuring out how many exposures an individual might have had, and assessing the transmission risk on a case-by-case basis. Although the design would not permit GPS tracking of individual phones, it allows public health agencies to ask for a zipcode or other geographic information from users to understand if a new COVID-19 cluster is beginning to form, the companies said. North and South Dakota, as well as Utah already are using GPS-based tracking apps for contact tracing.

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