With COVID-19 continuing to hold the planet hostage Apple and Google have teamed up to make it possible for governments and health organizations to better protect people and save lives. Apple made the announcement via press release today.

Apple says that the two companies will “help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.”

That last part is important, with any technology that essentially tracks people bound to come under scrutiny.

Both Apple and Google will release APIs that “enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities”. The two companies will also improve Bluetooth-based tracking by adding more core functionality to phones and other devices.

How all of this will work is obviously complicated stuff, but the gist is that each phone will be assigned a random identifier that will automatically refresh every 15 minutes. That identifier will then be relayed to organizations who need it.

Once someone is identified as having contracted COVID-19 they can give health authorities access to their unique identifiers. Their location history can then be referenced with other people’s.

The theory is simple – that will allow authorities to know who has been in contact with someone who could have infected them. Users will be able to see whether their identifier has come into contact with another that has subsequently been found to carry COVID-19.

It’s still early days, but the news that Android and iPhones will be supported here means that pretty much the entire globe will be covered. Now we wait.

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