Apple & Google Clarify that Contact-Tracing will be an Opt-In feature which could render the net effect useless
Apple and Google, normally arch-rivals, announced on Friday that they teamed up to build technology that enables public health agencies to write contact-tracing apps. Today Senior company representatives from both Apple and Google clarified that Governments can’t force their citizens to use technology built by Apple and Google for tracking and mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The fact that the apps work best when a lot of people use them have raised fears that governments could force citizens to use them. But representatives from both companies insist they won’t allow the technology to become mandatory.
Starting in May, Google and Apple are planning to update their phone operating systems with new APIs -- application programming interfaces -- that apps can use to track what other phones have been close by using Bluetooth signals. Recognized public health agencies would then use these APIs to build digital contact tracing apps, with some development help from Google and Apple.
The two companies have drawn a line in the sand in one area: Governments will not be able to require its citizens to use contact-tracing software built with these APIs — users will have to opt-in to the system, senior representatives said on Monday."
Apple and Google said that they could shut down the system region-by-region when the pandemic slows.
The companies said they’ll provide sample apps that can be treated as a starting point for a public health agencies rolling out these apps. Then, later, the companies plan to build the software directly into both Android and iOS so that downloading an app won’t be necessary to start contact tracing, expanding the number of people participating in the network.
While it's interesting that Apple and Google have added today's statement, you have to question why they built it to begin with if it's only an opt-in situation. The point of the app is that the more people in a region who download the area’s contract tracing app, the more effective it’s going to be at identifying people who may have been infected.
To succeed, then, the companies and public health officials will need to persuade people to trust them with their data -- which is why they are emphasizing opting-in as a key component of the software. Users who don’t want to participate can stop, delete the apps and tell the software to stop tracing them, an Apple representative said. For more on this read the full CNBC report.
Seriously, if only a tenth of smartphone owners actually opt into contact-tracing because of paranoia of 'Big Brother,' then it's been a PR exercise and little else.