Apple and Google ban the use of location tracking in contact tracking apps

NEW DELHI: Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google said Monday they would ban the use of apps that use a new contact tracking system that they are both building to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Apple and Google, whose operating systems power 99% of smartphones, said last month that they would work together to create a system to notify people who have been around others who tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The companies plan to allow public health authorities to only use the technology.

Both companies said privacy and preventing governments from using the system to collect data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

But developers of official coronavirus-related applications in several US states. USA They told Reuters last month that it was vital that they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracking system, to track how outbreaks move and identify critical points.

Apple and Google said they will not allow the use of GPS data in conjunction with contact tracking systems. The decision will require public health authorities wishing to use GPS location data to rely on unstable solutions to detect encounters using Bluetooth sensors.

Privacy experts have warned that any cache of location data related to health problems could make businesses and individuals vulnerable to ostracism if the data is exposed.

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Authorities and their app developers may reject the Apple-Google restrictions and instead use a more basic Bluetooth-based system to log in with users who have crossed paths. But the system would probably miss some encounters because iPhone and Android devices turn off Bluetooth connections after a while to save battery life and other reasons, unless users remember to turn them back on.

Apple and Google also said they will allow only one app per country to use the new contact system, to avoid fragmentation and encourage wider adoption. However, the companies said they would support countries that choose a state or regional approach, and that US states. USA They will be able to use the system.