While governments and organizations swiftly work towards finding a cure to the global pandemic, the two tech giants, Apple and Google decided to battle the coronavirus pandemic over a month ago. They successfully incorporated a contact tracking technology to help inform people when they have been exposed to the virus.
The two tech giant’s efforts are just the latest ways big companies and businesses have been working to help fight the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 202,000 people around the world, and infected more than 2.9 million people. Its impact on these businesses has been devastating as it but the important thing is their priorities lie in the right direction.
The contact tracking technology was initially designed to help people alert one another on the off chance of someone they might have come in contact with over a 14-day period and eventually diagnosed with the coronavirus. Apple CEO- Tim Cook and Google head- Sundar Pichai, ensured the technology would be built with privacy in mind.
The technology works by helping Apple iPhones or devices powered by Google’s Android software communicate with one another by sending signals to one another over Bluetooth channels. If someone is then confirmed as having the coronavirus, their phones send out a new signal alerting all the phones they’d come in contact with over the preceding 14 days.
Verily, the life sciences subdivision of Google parent company Alphabet launched a website that gives people in California information about virus testing. The website, developed in partnership with the White House, lets people fill in symptoms and provides an online screener.
Google also claimed it’s committing $800+ million to help small businesses and crisis responders dealing with the pandemic. Meanwhile, Apple and Google have both also begun producing and issuing protective equipment for health care workers.
Now with this new coronavirus tracking technology, Silicon Valley’s finest are hoping to help create apps that’ll help us regain a sense of routine as we await a vaccine.
Privacy Protection Update
Apple and Google have clearly kept their word since the said technology is opt-in and not turned on by default. The companies will offer programming tools to developers in mid-May, allowing health authorities to build apps with this new technology.
Apple and Google have planned to offer software updates to the more than two billion active devices around the world using their software by the end of the year. It will include any phone that can power iOS 13, the Apple’s latest software, which runs on devices as old as the iPhone 6S.
The companies began debating the project two weeks ago; they shared initial planning documents overtly to offer security researchers, partners and critics a means to begin vetting the technology.
To ensure further security, Apple and Google said they’d change the contact tracking program to use better encryption, scrambling any information that can be misused to ensure people cannot be tracked. The companies are also protecting any potentially discernable information about a person’s phone, such as the model of their phone or the signal strength of their transmissions.
Apple and Google are looking to health officials and organizations to build apps and they’ll gladly provide assistance. The companies said it’ll be easy to build an app for this project. Although health officials who don’t want to build their own, they’ll be able to use a premade app that can be rebranded.
The companies are also renaming the terminology they’re using, instead of the widely used term “contact tracking,” which could amplify anxieties of people worried about their privacy; they’re calling this technology ‘exposure notification’, since it better describes the functionality of the program while the companies also emphasize that the program is ‘privacy-preserving’.
It will remain a mystery whether Apple and Google win over people with this program until it actually bears results. The companies admitted they don’t know the minimum number of people opting in that’s necessary for the system to be effective. Experts believe at least half the population would have to allow the program access, meaning the companies would need to convince potentially billions of people to update.
Apple and Google have promised to dismantle the system when the coronavirus crisis passes as a means to entice people. That will include shutting down the application-programming interface (API) built to work with public health apps in process.
“The promise that Apple and Google will shut the API off is very welcome,” Jennifer Stisa Granick, the ACLU’s surveillance and cybersecurity counsel, said earlier this month. She also assured the people that proper vetting would be carried out with independent reviews so that they can verify the commitments made by the Silicon Valley’s finest.
Check out how covid-19 has been affecting businesses worldwide at PACE.