Google will roll out coronavirus contact tracing via Google Play Services

by Anmol
April 14, 2020

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Last week, Google and Apple announced an unusual partnership to control the spread of coronavirus. Both the companies announced that they are working together to make it easier to develop apps used in Asian countries like Singapore and create their own version of a contact-tracing app.

The service works using Bluetooth Low Energy and pings any Android or iPhone within 10-15 ft and will share data with different devices. The data will include a log containing a list of cryptographic IDs of people they have been in contact with within the last 14 days. If a person marks themselves as positive, the app will update the log and other devices can scan the log. If the ID matches, the person will get a notification letting them know that they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. Both Apple and Google have emphasized that under no scenario will they reveal the identity of the person infected and will hide all the Personal Identifiable Information (PII).

While building and pushing out such an API is easy for Apple as the company controls both the hardware and software, it is rather difficult for Google. The company has now confirmed that it will be pushing the new contact tracing update via Google Play Services which are available for all the Android Phones that have access to Google Play Store.

The company will roll out the API in May along with Apple and the API will be restricted to health services. In the second phase, Google will roll out an OS-level update which will remove the need for the app. On both the occasion, the service will be based on opt-in and the users will need to explicitly consent in order to use the service.

Unfortunately, a whole set of users based in China and those who bought Huawei after the Trump ban will not be able to access contact tracing as Google Play Services are not available on those devices. The new API will be rolling out to all the remaining Android 6.0+ devices and pushing it through Google Play Services will allow Google to do a broader rollout of the service to the smartphones that are no longer supported by their respective OEMs.

Via The Verge

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