The joint project between Google and Apple that will help app developers in the public health sector to do better contact tracing is now officially available. The first public version of the Exposure Notification system API can now be used by public health agencies in their official apps as each country is still in the midst of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The two tech giants are making clear that they are not creating a contact tracing apps but providing an API to make it easier for governments to do contact tracing but with privacy of individuals protected at the same time.
Previously, Google and Apple released a beta build of this Exposure Notification API and they were able to provide access to U.S. states and 22 countries to support their development efforts. Now the public version is being made available but of course, not everyone can have access to this, just the official channels of the government or U.S. states They have been working with public health officials, scientists, privacy groups, and government leaders to come up with a useful and safe system.
The system is actually a decentralized identifier system that will use randomly generated temporary keys that will be created on your device but not tied to your identity or information. The public health agencies will be able to set guidelines and parameters on what is the potential exposure in terms of time exposed and distance. They will also be able to tweak the transmission risk and also other factors determined by their own public health systems.
Now even when an app is created and released to the public, it is still up to the user whether or not to turn on the Exposure Notification on their device. Even those that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will still have the option whether or not to report it through the app. So it still is up to the government and public health officials to convince users to use the app and assure them of the changes that Google and Apple have made to ensure privacy and security.
They have also announced previously that there will be a Phase 2 to this, a system-level feature that will be rolled out through an update. They may be doing some revisions though as they continue to dialogue with public health officials as to what will be more useful for them.