The companies will first release interfaces built on existing public health apps in May that can work on iOS or Android systems, followed by a more comprehensive platform in the coming months to which users will be able to opt in.
Authorities around the world have identified contact tracing as one of the key solutions to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus, with several governments around the world, including Israel, Thailand and Hong Kong, using technology to track exposure and enforce quarantines.
The US government has been looking to Silicon Valley for solutions, with Facebook and Google confirming last month they were looking into the use of cellphone location data to help track the spread of the virus. Some companies have also used location tracking technology to identify spring breakers who flouted social distancing warnings in Florida. The state of North Dakota launched its own platform — made by the designers of a popular bison tracking app — to enable contact tracing.
Privacy advocates and experts around the world have flagged concerns with contact tracing technology, saying it could potentially be used as a surveillance tool once the pandemic is over.
Apple and Google, fierce rivals with the two most popular mobile operating systems in the world, said privacy will be central to their contact tracing efforts.
“Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort,” the companies said in their statement. “We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”