Report Details How Apple and Google Developed Contact Tracing API

Apple and Google developed their upcoming COVID-19 contact tracing tool in record time, according to a new report from CNBC that details how the two companies came together to create the API.


It took Apple under a month to flesh out the project, and in the beginning stages, it was the work of a handful of employees who had started brainstorming a solution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 back in March.

The speed at which the tool was developed was "highly unusual" for Apple, according to CNBC, spearheaded by employees who wanted to create a decentralized contact tracing solution that used Bluetooth in the background, didn't draw much battery life, and was focused on privacy.

The initial team focused on an opt-in solution that would send anonymous alerts to other phones it had been nearby rather than uploading the information to a government or central authority to prevent databases with detailed location or proximity info from being built, which are all features of the finished product.

Time was of the essence given the quick spread of COVID-19, and it didn't take long for the project to pick up speed with engineers volunteering their time. Meanwhile, employees at Google were also working on something similar, and team members from both Apple and Google ultimately communicated with one another and found a solution for working together.

Within a few weeks, the Apple project - code-named "Bubble" - had dozens of employees working on it with executive-level support from two sponsors: Craig Federighi, a senior vice president of software engineering, and Jeff Williams, the company's chief operating officer and de-facto head of healthcare. By the end of the month, Google had officially come on board, and about a week later, the companies' two CEOs Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai met virtually to give their final vote of approval to the project.

Apple is said to be aiming to launch its contact tracing tool, now called exposure notification, on May 1 in a software update. Apps that use Apple's exposure notification API will run on the iPhone 6s and later and will be able to communicate not only with iPhones, but also with Android devices, with the goal of informing users if they've been exposed to COVID-19.

CNBC's full report, which goes much more into depth on the development of the partnership and the work on the tracing technology, can be found on CNBC's website.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
25 weeks ago
Anonymized data with user consent is the right way to do this. If you have Tik Tok installed on your phone, but you think this is "too much" you really need to re-evaluate where your trust lies.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 weeks ago


and the data is aggregated and Google sells it to whoever. What will do Apple with the data? Pass to?

The data will never touch Apple‘s or Google‘s servers. It stays on your device. So there is nothing to sell. Only if you were infected and consented, your random beacon codes that were broadcasted via Bluetooth will be uploaded to a centralized place (which probably still won‘t be a Google or Apple server).
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 weeks ago
The faster this gets into people's phones (+ higher testing availability) the faster this will be over. If goverments allow this (UK just said no) it will be one of the best applications of smart phones ever.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 weeks ago


Anonymized is being used so heavily in every article.

I'll try again, anonymized would assume you can't discover the origin device. You literally have to for this to work. That means somewhere device id = anonymized id. You can change the anonymous id every five minutes but it still has to be in a table somewhere that said id at this time belongs to device id. That's the only way you are notified.

In advertising that's anonymized and what everyone keeps touting you don't need to store device id = advertising id anywhere. The data never has to make it back to the origin device because you just want the data.

Do you see the difference? Somewhere there is a record that has to keep track of the device. You are trusting this joint rushed operation has safeguards in place that someone won't be able to access that data. In the advertising world that data literally isn't there so its safe.

That’s a lot of words to say that you have no clue what you’re talking about because you haven’t read the specification.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 weeks ago
Still a hard pass. I don't care if it was only Apple working on this.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
25 weeks ago
I just realized how great this illustration is:



Flop sweat drips from Bob's uneven hairline as he sits bored, balancing a notchless smartphone in his hand with the screen faced away and the classic "App" app open. Not even his pencil 'stache distracts from the oddity.

Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Samsung Mocks Apple for Ditching Power Adapters With iPhone 12 Lineup

Thursday October 15, 2020 11:51 am PDT by
Samsung on its social channels is mocking Apple for removing the power adapter from the iPhone 12 lineup and other iPhone models, pointing out the fact that the Samsung Galaxy smartphones continue to ship with a power adapter. "Included with your Galaxy," reads a Samsung Facebook post that features a picture of a power adapter. Apple notably is no longer providing power adapters or...

iPhone 12 Pro Pre-Orders Already Selling Out With Delivery Times Pushing Into November

Friday October 16, 2020 6:35 am PDT by
Apple today opened pre-orders for the 6.1-inch models of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro through its website and the Apple Store app, and estimated delivery times are already slipping into November for select configurations in the United States. Customers ordering a SIM-free/Pacific Blue/128GB version of the iPhone 12 Pro, for example, are already facing an estimated delivery window of...

HomePod Mini Cable is Non-Detachable, Ends With USB-C Connector for Use With Included 20W Power Adapter

Friday October 16, 2020 12:45 pm PDT by
While not detailed in the tech specs, MacRumors can confirm that Apple's new HomePod mini features a non-detachable power cable that ends with a USB-C connector for use with the 20W power adapter included in the box. With the switch to USB-C, the HomePod mini could potentially be powered by a wider range of devices and peripherals, ranging from MacBooks to USB-C battery packs with enough...

Apple's New MagSafe Charger and Cases Begin Arriving to Customers

Saturday October 17, 2020 10:10 am PDT by
Apple's new MagSafe charger and cases have begun arriving to some customers earlier than expected, and images of the accessories have started to surface on Twitter. The photos provide a first look at the products in real-world use. As of writing, some MagSafe cases are also available for pickup at select Apple Stores in countries like the United States, Canada, and Germany. Filip...

New Google App Feature Lets You Hum a Song to Search for It

Saturday October 17, 2020 4:05 am PDT by
Google has added a new feature to its Search app that allows you to hum a song that's stuck in your head, and then use the company's machine learning algorithm to try and identify it. In the Google app or using the Google Search widget, tap the mic icon and say "what's this song?" or click the "Search a song" button. Then start humming the tune for 10-15 seconds. When you're done, the...

Brazilian Certifications Suggest iPhone 12 Mini Features 2,227mAh Battery and iPhone 12 Has 2,815mAh Battery

Friday October 16, 2020 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone mini has the shortest battery life out of all the iPhones in the iPhone 12 lineup due to its small size, but Apple has not provided public information about the battery's capacity. A regulatory filing from Brazil, however, suggests the iPhone 12 mini has a battery capacity of 2,227mAh. The same regulatory information says the iPhone 12 features a 2,815mAh battery, which is...

Apple Offering Free AirPods With iPhone 11 Purchase in India as Part of Diwali Celebration

Friday October 16, 2020 12:35 pm PDT by
Apple today launched a new Diwali promotion in India that will see the company providing customers with a set of AirPods with the purchase of any iPhone 11 model. The new iPhone 12 models are not part of the promotion. Apple is offering the standard AirPods With Charging Case free with purchase, but customers can choose to upgrade to the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case or the AirPods Pro....

Apple Event to Unveil First Apple Silicon Macs Could Happen on November 17

Friday October 16, 2020 2:24 am PDT by
Apple will hold another digital event on November 17 to announce its first Apple Silicon powered Macs, according to frequent leaker Jon Prosser. Apple has already said that this year it intends to introduce the first Mac powered by an Apple Silicon chip instead of an Intel processor. One thing it hasn't revealed is the date it will be announced. According to Prosser's source, that date is No...

Apple Online Store Down Ahead of iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Pre-Orders

Thursday October 15, 2020 11:15 pm PDT by
Apple's online store is down ahead of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro pre-orders, which are set to begin at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time in the United States. "You're... early," reads the Apple Store message when attempting to visit the U.S. website. "Pre-order begins at 5:00 a.m. PDT. Enjoy the extra sleep." Apple used to do new device pre-orders at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, but since last year, has...

When You Can Pre-Order the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Every Time Zone

Thursday October 15, 2020 10:55 am PDT by
Pre-orders for the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro are set to kick off on Friday, October 16 at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time, which is a new launch time that Apple adopted as of last year. Apple is planning to make the new devices available in multiple countries around the world simultaneously, so we've made a guide to let MacRumors readers know when pre-orders will in their country. Pre-orders...