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Apple and Google's Covid-19 tracing application yet to be operational

Early on Monday, India woke up to a new Covid-19 feature on their smartphones that created a bit of worry among many when there are enough confusion already about privacy policy.

Published: 30th June 2020 11:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th June 2020 11:00 AM   |  A+A-

coronavirus sample testing

For representational purposes (File Photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Early on Monday, India woke up to a new Covid-19 feature on their smartphones that created a bit of worry among many when there are enough confusion already about privacy policy. A Whatsapp message was also circulated claiming that a COVID-19 exposure sensor has been installed on all Android as well as iPhone device.

However, it was later found that the “COVID-19 exposure notifications” feature does not work as of now. Recently, the US tech giants Google and Apple have jointly released a contact-tracing API or application programming interface on Android and iOS. “What we have built is not an app — rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apple that people install,” the companies said in a release. In other words, API is a tool which allows various public health authority apps like Aarogya Setu to monitor your movement and alert you of Covid-19 infections around. Both the companies have also approached the central government to link their APIs to the government-run Aarogya Setu app. With the lack of any supporting app, the feature, the feature remains non-function for Indians.

Currently, countries such as Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya,Latvia, Philippines,Poland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the UK, and Uruguay, are using the Apple-Google contact tracing app. However, authorities in India haven’t shown interest in using APIs by these tech giants and has instead developed its own Aarogya Setu app which already has an in-built contact-tracing API. A likely reason is the fact that the API does not allow location data to be retrieved, which Aarogya Setu does.

Separately, United Nations Internet Governance Forum Secretariat Head Chengetai Masango on Monday also said privacy is an important policy aspect of contact-tracing apps being developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it needs to be ensured that these apps are used for their stated purpose only. “Privacy and surveillance, whether public or private, are the most important risks. So, purpose limitation is important and then making sure that you are having transparent disclosures,” he said at the BIF-BE’s conference on Internet Governance.

HOW DOES IT WORK FOR COUNTRIES USING IT?

If two people meet for more than five minutes, their phones exchange an identifier via Bluetooth. If one of those people later tests positive and the data enters the government’s application. The person that the now-positive user had met will be matched and will be alerted

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