Apple and Google have released their joint contact tracing API in 22 countries and several US states.
Contact tracing is considered a key element in overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. Apple and Google have fought to create an API that is built around privacy first, emphasizing Bluetooth proximity signals, rather than location tracing. The system is decentralized, and does not provide private health information or location data to government agencies.
Instead, using anonymous Bluetooth keys, a phone keeps a local list of the phones it has been in proximity with over the previous two weeks, a list that never leaves the phone. If someone tests positive for the virus, their phone will alert every other phone it has been in close proximity with, notifying their owners they need to self-quarantine and get tested. Importantly, everything, including the identity of the person who tested positive, is completely anonymous.
Some governments have balked at the privacy-based focus of the API, arguing they need more access and control of the data. Thankfully, Apple and Google have pushed back and maintained their original goal of protecting user privacy.
Now that the API has been officially released, governments should start releasing their apps based on it.