Apple-Google Covid-19 tracing tech available but cannot be used in India

Topics Apple  | Google | Coronavirus

Contact tracing app Photo: Shutterstock
Apple and Google, in an unprecedented move, come together in April to develop technology to help people and governments around the world to flatten the coronavirus curve. Known as Covid-19 exposure notification or Covid-19 contact tracing tech, the technology is ready and is now available on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platform. Here is everything you need to know about the tech:

What is Covid-19 exposure notification tech

Developed by Apple and Google together, the tech is available in the form of an Application Programming Interface (API) for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS smartphones. The tech enables smartphones to constantly log other devices they come near, enabling what is known as “contact tracing” of the disease. The technology is a service, which requires a supplementary app to work.

The tech works with a public health app designed to use the API developed by Google and Apple. The app acts as a tool to send and receive data from nearby devices, therefore, keeps a record of people one may have come in contact with and their Covid-19 status. If a person updates his/her status as Covid-19 positive, the app shall update data on the cloud. The app regularly runs checks to notify people if they have accidently or unknowingly come in contact with Covid-19 positive person. It also notifies health agencies so that the person could be tested in time and the coronavirus spread can be curbed.

Does it work in India

India’s contact-tracing app, Aarogya Setu, does not use Apple-Google API. Setu works similar to other contact tracing apps, but it requires devices’ location access along with Bluetooth access. The Apple-Google API does not permit public-health apps to access location data, therefore, it is not being used by the Aarogya Setu app.

Contact tracing apps based on Apple-Google API verses Aarogya Setu app

Aarogya Setu app uses Bluetooth and location data, whereas apps built on Apple-Google API use only Bluetooth to collect information. In both the apps, two handsets communicate if they are in close proximity through Bluetooth and the app flags proximity to users who may be corona-positive. However, permission to use location in Aarogya Setu app gives it access to users’ movement. The Aarogya Setu collects more data (location, numbers), which the Google-Apple API does not allow. Moreover, it stores data on the user’s phone and uploads it under listed circumstances.

READ MORE: The problem with Aarogya Setu

In contrast, the Apple-Google API uses DP-3T (Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing) protocol, which assigns randomised anonymised unique IDs to users. Those IDs change often, therefore, it allows proximity to a corona-positive person to be picked up without identity or location being disclosed.

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