Last week, Apple and Google phone received support for exposure notifications meant to trace COVID-19 infections. These notifications are sent by compatible apps developed by local governments.
While India, too, received messages from Android and Apple about the notification app, but the Aarogya Setu app that has been developed by the Central government, is not compatible with the Google-Apple Application Programming Interface (API), and therefore you cannot use the feature on your smartphone yet. However, there isn’t an official word from the Centre as yet on future plans to make it compatible.
There are two fundamental differences between Aarogya Setu app and the app that is based on the Google and Apple API are as follows:
– The Google-Apple API allows contact-tracing apps to use features such as Bluetooth technology
– Secondly, user privacy is a key factor. While Aarogya Setu requires your location, the exposure notifications is strictly against collecting GPS info.
Notably, the Google-Apple API is not an app, but rather a framework within the operating system that will allow a government-built app to function if you decide to install it.
It follows this statement from Google and Apple from May 2020.
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.
To help, Apple and Google cooperated to build Exposure Notifications technology that will enable apps created by public health agencies to work more accurately, reliably and effectively across both Android phones and iPhones. Over the last several weeks, our two companies have worked together, reaching out to public health officials, scientists, privacy groups and government leaders all over the world to get their input and guidance.
Starting today, our Exposure Notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. 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. 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.
Today, this technology is in the hands of public health agencies across the world who will take the lead and we will continue to support their efforts.