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Technology: Apple and Google team up to release “exposure notifications” for COVID-19 events

GLOBAL — Apple and Google teamed up to release an application programming interface (API) as the first phase of its “Exposure Notification System,” which can use “privacy-preserving digital technology” to notify users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19 events.

“What we’ve built is not an app — rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better,” Apple and Google said.

“Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.”

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Over the past five weeks, the team has gotten feedback from conversations with public health agencies, NGOs, academics, government officials, and privacy experts in America and across the world.

As of writing, 22 countries have requested and received access to the API.

“One of the most effective techniques that public health officials have used during outbreaks is called contact tracing. Through this approach, public health officials contact, test, treat, and advise people who may have been exposed to an affected person. One new element of contact tracing is Exposure Notifications: using privacy-preserving digital technology to tell someone they may have been exposed to the virus. Exposure Notification has the specific goal of rapid notification, which is especially important to slowing the spread of the disease with a virus that can be spread asymptomatically.”

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