The whole world is horrified by how rapidly the virus spreads, the number of deaths increases, and the economy collapses. Many states are rapidly developing a vaccine, health authorities and large companies are making maximum efforts to reduce the incidence of COVID-19. So, in recent times, large companies such as Google and Apple have announced that they have begun developing new software that will help fight the virus.
Companies say that the software will provide maximum privacy and security to users. It is reported that developing software for monitoring contacts infected by COVID-19 will end in May and will be available for both Android and iOS.
How It Works
If earlier, to find out about all the contacts of the patient, it was necessary to interview the patient himself, make a detailed list of contacts, notify everyone and put them on self-isolation, now the whole process is very simplified.
You can get infected directly by close contact with a person. A device with firmware uses Bluetooth, not GPS, to track the distance between users. Therefore, no one can track the location of a person.
The application processes all patient contacts for 14 days and saves a meeting record. A notification is sent to the user’s phone he had contact with the patient hit by COVID-19.
Since the main task of the software is confidentiality, the personal data of the user who has become infected with the virus will not be disclosed to the authorities. Also, the database will be updated automatically the moment the device signals a nearby phone.
How Covid-19 Contact Tracing Software Will Be Implemented
The giant companies Apple and Google plan to comprehensively solve this problem. For tracking contacts, application programming interfaces (API) and operating system level technology will be used. They plan to introduce software in two stages.
The first stage will occur in mid-May. Developers plan to launch functionality for Android and iPhone. Through an application managed by health authorities, anonymous information will be exchanged wirelessly. Applications will be available for download in application stores.
The second stage will happen in the coming months. Both companies plan to integrate the technology directly into their operating systems without having to download the application. This will help engage many more people since about 3 billion users (more than a third of the population) use Android Google and Apple iOS.
How to Use COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology
The user downloads the application to the phone and agrees to the use of data. Spending a few minutes with another person, devices record this meeting using Bluetooth. Data is updated every 15-20 minutes and remains on devices for confidentiality.
After some time, with a diagnosis of COVID-19, the user enters this information into the application. After subjecting the user to consent, notifications will be sent to all the people who have contacted the user. The application notifies them how to properly isolate themselves and comply with quarantine.
How to Protect User Personal Data
Many are frightened by the fact that the exchange of confidential information about the health of users through phones that transmit location data may be contrary to HIPAA. Google and Apple reassured users.
For the system to work, user consent is required. The important thing is that location data will not be collected, only contacts in the immediate vicinity.
Also, the user will not know who and when exactly had contact with him. Companies report they cannot access this information about users, and if necessary, it is possible to stop the entire system.
The main points that Google and Apple supplemented with their software will help maintain confidentiality:
- Random key generation
- Bluetooth metadata encryption to complicate human identification
- Registration of only those contacts that were over 5 minutes with the user; data reset after 30 minutes.
Similar technologies have been used for years. Tracking technologies were used in swine flu in 2011 and have shown success. Now many countries are developing similar applications — China, South Korea, Singapore.
Soon applications are expected in the Czech Republic, Germany, and the UK. The privacy issue remains open. All medical data must be deleted when the situation stabilizes.
Giants Google and Apple have updated software information. They will make such changes:
- Add Bluetooth signal strength information to more accurately estimate the distance between devices
- Add a count of the days since the last contact for a better treatment
- Change API encryption algorithm from HMAC to AES to improve performance.
Now it is very important to stabilize the situation in the world and eliminate new outbreaks of the virus. It is thanks to the work of developers and the interaction of large companies it is possible to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 and quickly restore the old quality of life, the state of the economy, and the world.