Tracking - Apple and Google

How Coronavirus People Tracking Will Work on iOS and Android

Yesterday, as we reported, Apple and Google came together in an unprecedented initiative to combat Coronavirus (COVID-19).

In these coming weeks, the iOS it’s the Android will be updated with new frameworks designed for public health apps that will let users know if they have recently established contact with someone who has already been infected with the virus. But how will this happen in practice? We will, of course, explain everything below.

Both Apple and Google shared technical information about how this monitoring will work. Not everyone, of course, needs to know all of these details. But as these things involve privacy, it is good that you stay on top of the main aspects – even if it is something a little more “macro”.

Tracking - Apple and Google

Think about the following scenario: two people are very close for a few minutes, either on the street, in a market or in a pharmacy. Their phones (regardless of whether they run iOS or Android) then exchange anonymous identifiers (which change frequently), using Bluetooth technology.

A few days later, one of these people is diagnosed with COVID-19 and shares this result with an app created by the health authority in his country (in our case, the Coronavirus – SUS).


Coronavirus - SUS app icon

With her consent, the iPhone or Android uploads the identifiers used by the phone to the cloud in the last 14 days.

Tracking - Apple and Google

The other person’s device in the story regularly downloads information (from those identifiers) from who tested positive for COVID-19 in your region. At this point, the device identifies whether she has had contact with any of these people in the past few days – all anonymously, according to both Apple and Google.

That person then receives a notification on his device that he has had contact with someone infected, and then receives more information than he should do next. Not cool? Obviously, if everything works the way the companies explained.

According to episode # 94 of the podcast Teresina Forum, something similar (not necessarily following the same privacy guidelines, for obvious reasons) has already been developed in China, where the government monitors people using the WeChat app.

There, people are identified by colors: green for those who do not have the virus; yellow for those who need to protect themselves (stay at home for a certain period); and red for those who are possibly infected and need to go to the hospital. Thus, if a green person comes into contact with a red one somewhere (market, for example), he automatically turns yellow and needs to face a quarantine of 14 days.

Furthermore, the observation of journalist Bruno Natal is quite relevant, since this tool only makes sense if the country in question is testing its population at a satisfactory pace – which is still far from happening in Brazil.