Coronavirus is going on strong and, to date, has claimed almost 3 million victims. Therefore, to stop the spread and get back to our lives, Apple and Google have come up with a solution. They have developed an app called COVID Safe app, which will alert its users if they come in contact with a Corona patient. It accomplishes this by tracking all of the devices that install the app. It focuses its radius at 5 feet and records any interaction between individuals within such distance. If a person you interacted with develops COVID-19, then the app automatically alerts you for the potential of the disease.
This sounds like a good idea on paper, as this would help the government track the virus and its victims quickly. But an app that tracks your movement through the day has many privacy issues. Because of this, people may feel insecure and refuse to install the app.
COVID Safe App in Australia
COVID Safe app is now operational in Australia, and more than 1.8 million people have already installed it. Although they have raised many security concerns regarding sharing their personal information and location, the Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt came out to ensure the people that their data is safe, and it will help the health department stop this epidemic.
Greg Hunt stated that the data collected through the app is secured at an Australian server. After this nightmare is over, their data will be disposed of. Anyone that tried to use the data for a purpose other than tracking COVID-19 will be severely punished.
With all that cleared, let us dive deep into how the application functions?
Tracking COVID-19 and Protecting Privacy
As mentioned above, this app is a joint venture by Apple and Google, who are using their reach and expertise to track the virus. The application uses Bluetooth signals from the device to access others in its proximity. Apple and Google argue that using Bluetooth reduces the risk of broadcasting the user’s personal information. It relies on Bluetooth beaconing to access the closeness between two users.
Also Read: WHO uses WhatsApp group to fight COVID-19
COVID Safe App secures the user’s identity by providing them with a privacy-preserving identifier. This works like a pseudo ID that changes every 10-20 minutes. At the end of each day, the application collects the IDs that have bee marked as COVID-19 positive and then runs a check as to whom they came in contact with. People that are marked by the app can go into self-quarantine and should get tested for COVID-19.
This attempt from Apple and Google is commendable and will help governments though out the world in reducing COVID-19 cases. The tech giants may have to improve the security of the app further and eliminate all possibilities of foul play.