Apple allies with arch-enemy – for good reason

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Image source: GIGA

In the fight against the Coronavirus and Covid-19, Apple has teamed up with a major competitor. According to Apple, the new system, which will result from this cooperation, will “enable the beginning of the normalization of everyday life”.

Apple and Google cooperate against Covid-19: Contact tracking via smartphone

In a joint announcement was shared by Apple And Google working with, which is intended to help in the fight against the current coronavirus and the associated disease Covid-19. The collaboration aims to reach as many users of iOS and Android devices as possible for the use of contact tracking. The basis is the Bluetooth system integrated into the smartphone to enable tracking of contacts. However, the protection of users’ privacy remains the focus.

This system should start in two phases. Programming interfaces (APIs) are to be released by both companies in May. These are designed to enable Android and iOS to work seamlessly together to use apps from different health authorities around the world. The apps of the authorities are then offered in the respective app stores.

In the second step, a system integrated deeper into the operating systems will be introduced in the coming months, which can also work across platforms between iOS and Android devices. By integrating it into the respective operating system, contact tracking can then take place without apps from the health authorities. However, you will continue to support these apps. This deep integration should also save the battery, since the system takes over the necessary Bluetooth control and does not have to be an app of a health authority active for this purpose.

Apple is not only working on new software against the coronavirus, but also offers unusual hardware to protect:

Contact tracking from Apple and Google: How the system should work

Each smartphone sends a randomly generated key via Bluetooth for contact tracking, which changes every 15 minutes and is received by other devices in the environment. These keys do not contain any personal information or location information. Apple offers a simple graphic for the explanation that describes the entire system:

As can be seen on the example, the smartphones of the two users, Alice and Bob, are located in a nearby environment for an extended period of time. The two smartphones exchange their random keys.

Bob then receives the news a few days after this meeting that his Covid-19 test is positive. According to Apple’s example, he can enter this information into his health authority’s app. In addition, he explicitly agrees that his anonymous keys of the past 14 days will be published. This step is intended to Macrumors supported by a QR code, for example. To prevent false news, the information provided by a user must be verified. Exactly how this is to be done could vary from region to region.

After uploading Bob’s collected keys, the so-called broadcast keys are downloaded from Alice’s smartphone. A match with Bob’s keys is detected and Alice contains a warning that she was in contact with an infected person. The health authority can then give Alice guidance on how to proceed. Alice does not know who the infected person was or where the contact took place. The identification of the possible matches also takes place only on your own smartphone.

The entire system should be opt-in. It therefore requires explicit consent from the respective user in order to participate in the contact tracking. As described above, the publication of your own keys must also be explicitly agreed in the case of a positive Covid-19 test. Apple offers its own website further technical details to the planned system for download. Apple and Google are expected to adjust more details of the system in the coming days and weeks, for example to address criticism from privacy advocates.

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