Apple and Google Launch COVID-19 Exposure Notification API, Over 20 Countries Have Requested and Received Access

Apple and Google today launched their Exposure Notification API to assist public health authorities around the world with slowing the spread of COVID-19.

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On the Apple side, the API is available in the iOS 13.5 software update released today. Apple said that several U.S. states and 22 countries around the world have requested and received access to the API to date, with more expected to join in the coming weeks. A few of the committed states so far include Alabama, South Carolina, and North Dakota.

Apple and Google have consulted with a number of public health authorities on the API, including the CDC, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the Public Health Informatics Institute of the Taskforce for Global Health.

Apple and Google said that the API is intended to supplement rather than substitute for traditional contact tracing. In a statement, the companies said that the API is designed to make contact tracing apps work better:

One of the most effective techniques that public health officials have used during outbreaks is called contact tracing. Through this approach, public health officials contact, test, treat and advise people who may have been exposed to an affected person. One new element of contact tracing is Exposure Notifications: using privacy-preserving digital technology to tell someone they may have been exposed to the virus. Exposure Notification has the specific goal of rapid notification, which is especially important to slowing the spread of the disease with a virus that can be spread asymptomatically.

To help, Apple and Google cooperated to build Exposure Notifications technology that will enable apps created by public health agencies to work more accurately, reliably and effectively across both Android phones and iPhones. Over the last several weeks, our two companies have worked together, reaching out to public health officials scientists, privacy groups and government leaders all over the world to get their input and guidance.

Starting today, our Exposure Notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. What we’ve built is not an app — rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.

Today, this technology is in the hands of public health agencies across the world who will take the lead and we will continue to support their efforts.

Governor Doug Burgum, North Dakota:

North Dakota is excited to be among the first states in the nation to utilize the exposure notification technology built by Apple and Google to help keep our citizens safe. The CARE19 Exposure app will help us improve contact tracing and continue our ND Smart Restart by notifying people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, reaching the greatest number of people in a way that protects their privacy. As we respond to this unprecedented public health emergency, we invite other states to join us in leveraging smartphone technologies to strengthen existing contact tracing efforts, which are critical to getting communities and economies back up and running.

Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama State Health Officer:

The State of Alabama's priority as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic together is the health and safety of its citizens as well as their privacy. In partnership with Apple and Google, the Alabama Department of Public Health, University of Alabama System, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, we are harnessing technology to accelerate exposure notification to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that we can all be safe together.

Leslie A. Lenert, MD, Assistant Provost for Data Science and Informatics and Chief Research Information Officer, Medical University of South Carolina:

The Department of Health and Environment Concerns (DHEC) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) are building the SC-Safer-Together COVID-19 risk management app, which is designed to let people know anonymously that they may have been exposed to the virus and giving them the option to connect with public health officials. Built to tough medical privacy protection standards by health care providers, the SC Safer Together app, using the Apple-Google system, protects users’ privacy and will help South Carolina safely get back to work. MUSC is also proud to be working with Clemson University and the University of California San Diego on smart and private extensions that will further enhance the app’s capabilities.

To learn how the API works, read our Exposure Notification guide.

Top Rated Comments

ipedro Avatar
10 months ago



Key word..."volunteering". It may be voluntary right now. But someone will find a way to make it "mandatory". (I could see my governor making things like this mandatory, simply because he's a power hungry douchebag who is actively threatening anyone and everyone who "defies" him). Which is exactly why I want to see it removed when the situation improves enough to warrant that.

I trust Apple's API. I don't trust some of the people who will be utilizing it.
Again, you’re not understanding this API. The government gets more data on you, including exactly who you are and exactly where you’ve been simply by connecting to cell towers. All this API does is let you know that you’ve been near someone who has reported that they have been tested positive for COVID-19. It doesn’t send geographic data to governments, it doesn‘t identify anybody.

I get being cynical about government overreach into our privacy but you’re completely misunderstanding what this API is and what data it sends to governments. Go do further reading on how this works if you don’t want to remain misinformed.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Trik Avatar
10 months ago
Love this... here's hoping technology can finally help solve a worldwide problem it didn't create in the first place. I'll be enabling this as soon as I can.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ipedro Avatar
10 months ago

I have warmed to this idea as time has gone on. However...once we have the situation under control to the point where this would no longer be necessary...I want to see Apple remove the API and not allow it to be "repurposed". Whether you want to see it or not, allowing this even to begin with for this situation is a slippery slope. When you consider how much Apple always touts their respect for privacy and security...they have a LOT to lose here if something goes wrong.

I trust that Apple made it as secure as possible and kept privacy as a priority. I do not, however...trust the security and privacy of an app that will utilize this...especially one created by a state (especially mine, if they go that route. Exhibit A...unemployment recently revealed private information for countless people) or anyone connected at the federal level. This API would be like a wet-dream to pretty much ALL of the leadership in my state. If my state were to develop an app using this...they can kiss my ass.
Despite being “warmed up to this idea”, you still don’t understand how this works. The API is useless to governments if people aren’t reporting COVID-19 positive results in the app, which they of course wouldn’t be doing in the future if there are no infections. So the API cannot be repurposed because nobody will be volunteering the information, hence they get no data.

This API was brilliantly designed. Kudos to Apple and Google.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iOS Geek Avatar
10 months ago
I have warmed to this idea as time has gone on. However...once we have the situation under control to the point where this would no longer be necessary...I want to see Apple remove the API and not allow it to be "repurposed". Whether you want to see it or not, allowing this even to begin with for this situation is a slippery slope. When you consider how much Apple always touts their respect for privacy and security...they have a LOT to lose here if something goes wrong.

I trust that Apple made it as secure as possible and kept privacy as a priority. I do not, however...trust the security and privacy of an app that will utilize this...especially one created by a state (especially mine, if they go that route. Exhibit A...unemployment recently revealed private information for countless people) or anyone connected at the federal level. This API would be like a wet-dream to pretty much ALL of the leadership in my state. If my state were to develop an app using this...they can kiss my ass.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kyle4 Avatar
10 months ago

For some perspective, from October of 2019 to April of 2020, there have been as many as 740,000 hospitalizations from the flu in the US and as many as 62,000 deaths. Where is the tracking device for the flu? Where are the flue quarantines? Where were all of the hysterical masked people?

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm

Btw, flu vaccine is not even 50% effective, so you can't really count on that to protect you: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/effectiveness-studies.htm

1.35 million die each year worldwide from car accidents, why don't we make speed limits everywhere 10 miles per hour? https://policyadvice.net/car-insurance/insights/how-many-people-die-in-car-accidents/ Maybe google and apple can get together and figure out how to do that.
Oh you’re one of those people, never mind then. Mortality rates, rates of infection etc are what matter. If you can’t tell the difference and are comparing the normal flu and car accident deaths to a global pandemic then there’s no helping you.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iOS Geek Avatar
10 months ago

YES THIS ALSO. It must be removed after a period of time!
Exactly. I've been looking at things a bit differently. I'm not denying the severity of the situation. I'm in healthcare. I've seen all there is to see with this. It ain't pretty. But think about when people talk about the climate. The argument is always "think about the world we're making for our children and grandchildren. If that world scares you, then we're doing something wrong".

Well...look at the world we are allowing our fear to create right now. We are allowing a pretty scary level of control. Governments don't have a good history of relinquishing control once they have it. If people are so worried about the world we're creating for future generations...they need to look at the one we're creating right now. We are willingly creating a world of constant surveillance and tracking "for the greater good". We've heard that "for the greater good" countless times in the past. And quite a few times...it wasn't "good". There will be a time in the future where we will look back on the things we allowed to be done now and say to ourselves "maybe we shouldn't have done that". Give an inch...they go a mile.


Despite being “warmed up to this idea”, you still don’t understand how this works. The API is useless to governments if people aren’t reporting COVID-19 positive results in the app, which they of course wouldn’t be doing in the future if there are no infections. So the API cannot be repurposed because nobody will be volunteering the information, hence they get no data.

This API was brilliantly designed. Kudos to Apple and Google.
Key word..."volunteering". It may be voluntary right now. But someone will find a way to make it "mandatory". (I could see my governor making things like this mandatory, simply because he's a power hungry douchebag who is LITERALLY threatening anyone and everyone who "defies" him. And yes..."defies" him are his actual words). Which is exactly why I want to see it removed when the situation improves enough to warrant that.

I trust Apple's API. I don't trust some of the people who will be utilizing it. It is plenty possible to fit into both of those categories. Especially because I work in healthcare. I've seen, firsthand, some pretty sketchy **** from my state's health department. So when the release notes mention "API to support COVID-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities"...I will be skeptical.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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