Apple and Google today said they’re working together on Bluetooth interoperability between Android and iOS devices to empower coronavirus tracking apps for smartphones. Apple and Google own the world’s two most widely-used mobile operating systems. The news was announced today in a joint Apple–Google statement and will enable tracking of close proximity between people across Android and iOS devices.
“First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores,” the statement reads.
Apple and Google also plan to create a Bluetooth tracing platform that will allow users to opt-in and share their tracking history with government health authorities tracking the spread of the coronavirus.
Privacy advocates in favor of decentralized methods of Bluetooth tracking call it one of the most privacy conscious methods of contact tracing available today. Private Kit: Safe Paths for example is now in conversations with over 30 countries around the world as well as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its coronavirus tracing app that will soon use Bluetooth.
Makers of existing apps like COVID Watch who succeeded in exchanging anonymized code between iOS and Android devices for the purposes of coronavirus tracing say they’ve encountered Android bugs and that iPhones can’t run the tracking app in the background, requiring users to keep their phones open for Bluetooth tracking to work for iOS devices.