Contact tracing is one of the most important things that governments can do in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. But it’s also one of the most difficult things to do if you do it manually and without the help of digital technology. That’s why in an unprecedented move, Google and Apple announced they were creating an API for Android and iOS devices that governments and health agencies can use for contact tracing apps that they’re developing. Over the next few weeks, you’ll now be able to switch on the notifications on your phone in preparation for the possible app your country may be releasing.
For Android devices, turning on the notifications would be pretty easy. You will have to go to the Settings > Google > Services and then toggle on the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications. But since it’s not Google that will be building an app but just providing an API for governments that will build the official app, this is just a possible app interface that they can utilize when creating their own apps.
Not just anyone can build the app and use the API of course. The access to the code will only be provided for those created by or for a government public health authority for their COVID-19 efforts. They will also restrict the API to one app per country “to promote high user adoption and avoid fragmentation.” Once the update has been sent to all Android device, it will now be up to the app developers to create the software that will make it easier to do contact tracing for those who may have come in contact with COVID-19 positive individuals.
It’s still up to users of course whether to flip that Exposure Notification toggle as people may have privacy issues with regards to this. You will get an ID associated with your phone which will be randomized every 14 days for data privacy concerns. But you can delete that ID whenever you want to if you don’t have any plans of turning on the notification anyway and you’re confident you won’t come in contact with any possible symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers.
The settings and the API tracking will be made available sometime within the month. There is still much to understand and analyze about the COVID-19 pandemic so anything that can help governments control the spread of the virus will be much needed.