a huge leap ahead in the fight against coronavirus
On Friday Apple and Google, the two tech giants announced a system to track the spread of coronavirus. This enables users to share data via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmission.
The new system aims to use short-range Bluetooth to establish contact with nearby devices. This enables the sharing of extensive data on phones that have been in close proximity to each other. The system will share the collected information with the public health authorities. The app will also send alerts to people who were in close contact with an infected person, and users could report if they have been diagnosed with the virus. We can expect the app to be available by mid-May this year.
Contact tracing– it is a method to discover who the infected person has been in contact with, thus aiding the authorities against the spread, therefore it could play a vital role to limit the spread.
Similar approach in South Korea
A similar use of Digital surveillance technology was witness in South Korea. They monitored the location of patients and informed people to avoid certain areas with known cases. In a similar fashion the system will notify the people whose phones have been in close range with a person tested positive for COVID-19.
The system isn’t flawless, it could spread false alarms to people in crowded areas where they might be in the adjacent room who are not in close contact. The app is greatly limited to the type of phones people have, thus leading to lower accuracy depending on the phone.
The system could lead to a possible compromise of user privacy. With the system in place, the exchange of data could lead to identity theft. To tackle this, there are steps taken to prevent people from being identified. While your phone is interacting with other nearby devices it broadcasts an anonymous key every 15 mins to maintain privacy of the users. The phones will themselves perform cryptographic calculations to further protect privacy.
Keeping all the pros and cons in mind, the initiative is a step in the right direction.