Two of the world’s largest technology firms Apple and Google recently announced a partnership to help fight the Coronavirus for CNET.
I’m Dan Patterson with CBS News investing.
Investigative reporter, Graham Kate.
Graham, the companies are working on contact tracing.
Can you help us understand what contact tracing is and how Smart Bones will be used in this process?
Sure.First contact tracing at its base is, the most classic way that you try to fight an epidemic.And that is, when someone is diagnosed with the disease, you’ll find out through interviewing them, really this is typically done manually.
Who have you interacted with, in this case for Coronavirus in the last two weeks, where have you gone?
Which stores have you been to?
Who have you hung out with, right?
So that the doctors and the teams that are tracing people can contact those people and say someone you know has gotten sick.
You should get tested too.
Of course, that’s a slow process.
It’s hard to do.
We don’t really have a lot of people doing it in the US.
And so what Apple and Google are saying is that using your mobile phones, there might be a better option.
Faster way to do it.
So Google creates the Android operating system Apple creates iOS.
How will these two operating systems that usually compete sync up In mid May, they’re both gonna have operating system updates that allow for public health departments to create apps that will allow both operating systems to communicate with each other through those apps about material enter that has to do with Coronavirus And what that’s gonna do is, in general, the apps are gonna have to run the entire time you’re using your phone, whether or not you actually, click on it and say follow me only in the app, they have to run the entire time in the background.
And they’re scanning for all the phones around them, and then trying to know which ones that they came within close contact.
Sorry, contact to using the Bluetooth signal.
And then if you are diagnosed with corona virus and you put into the app and positive,the app will then look for the list of all phones that came there and send to those phones,not saying you then are positive but some person who you interacted with at some point according to your history of interaction on this earth Came into with corona virus or just positive with and you should know the test itself.
So that’s an interesting plan but it requires a lot users, what is the adaption rate that’s, of the operating system upgrades that Apple and Google will need in order for the smartphone contact tracing to be effective.
In the beginning, it’s not just getting the upgrades.
It’s getting the upgrades and then downloading the right apps, and agreeing to all the different privacy permissions to allow it to track you all the way through.
And they’re talking about, here’s a thing like models for this Say that in order to eliminate a pandemic, you need at least 50% of people to join in.
But it’s worth noting that there hasn’t really been any good modeling about how many people need to buy in just to have an effect just to slow the rate of growth of the disease.
And so their pitches Everyone should use our, the apps developed on our operating systems.
So at least everyone’s synced up and there’s not hodgepodge of different attempts and different apps that are trying to do contact tracing.
if everyone’s using the same system, they say Then at least they’ll be kind of synchronicity and trying to fight the disease.
This also raises a number of privacy concerns.
How are Apple and Google going to Anonymous this data.
They know that everyone’s concerned about the privacy of this.
I mean, they’re asking you to accept being tracked everywhere you go at all times to have this running on your phone at all times.
And what they’re saying is we’re only using the Bluetooth signal, which only communicates with people within about a 15 foot bridge.
And the only thing we’re going to lag on these apps is not The location of where you were when you interacted with the person.
But just that you just interact with the person.
That you came close to a person.
And then, they say, they’re gonna log that as not I interacted with Dan but My secret beacon or key for my phone came close to a secret beacon or keep or dance phone.
And those beacons are going to change frequently and they’re in the beginning they’re only going to be stored on your phone.
And then they only go to a server, that’s outside your phone.
If you enter that you tested positive, they said, from that server, it will then notify the other people through their secret beacons.
And then after 14 days, remove that information.
So look, it’s a lot to try and there are plenty of reasons why people might not want to try them on Google and Apple for them but this is their pitch.
They’re saying we’re going to keep this private, it’s going to be secret, and it won’t be tied to location to that, and whether or not that’s true it’s something that we’re gonna have to watch and see as it rolls out.
So that is a lot to ask, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt at least in terms of Coronavirus.
When does this geolocation or bluetooth location tracking stop?
Let’s say we solve Coronavirus, how will they turn this off?
So there’s two different phases to the rollout.
The first is this operating system update that allows public health departments, to create apps that will do the tracking.
So that one’s kind of simple.
If you’re done with the app, you just delete the app from your phone right?
That’s how you turn off the permission for being tracked.
But phase two, which they say will be several months from now, we’ll be building into the operating system, the ability to turn on this tracking on your phone.
And that one is the one where you’ll have to remember that it’s turned on on your phone, not for some random app.
And then remember to turn it off on your phone, right?
You have to opt in but then you have to opt out as well.
And that one I think is the one that people will probably be a little more concerned about.
Because, again, it’s not the New York State Department of Health asking you to download an app and then you’re downloading the New York State Department of Health app and then maybe deleting it, but it will just be built into The Apple functionality, the Android functionality, and you’ll have to remember to turn it off.
So Graham finally, are we also trading privacy forever in order to preserve our health?
They say the answer to that is no, they say, luck when we have a pandemic.
Department of Health’s around the country and around the world will have the ability to tap into this resource.
And then when they decided the risk is over they can stop tapping into that resource.
So people could stop at the internet resource.
But this is one of these things where it’s never really been tested out before.
They’ve never asked, how many?
More than 160 million people minimum to accept being tracked all the time and then to remember to turn off those permissions.
So whether or not this works and whether or not people are comfortable with it is really something That we not only have to watch but kind of to remind people about all the time.
Don’t forget, you may have had this turned on last year for COVID.
Maybe check and see if you’re still do.