In a follow-up to their joint venture with Google to dole out a coronavirus tracing app, Apple released an update to the iOS. Available only to developers as of now, the primary focus of the exercise will be on the COVID-10 Exposure Notification API (Application Programming Interface). Going by a statement from the tech giant, iOS 13.7 will allow users to opt-in the exposure notifications with no prerequisite of downloading the COVID tracing app from the local health authorities.
Here’s the official statement :
‘iOS 13.7 lets you opt-in to the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system without the need to download an app. System availability depends on support from your local public health authority. For more information see covid19.apple.com/contacttracing. This release also includes other bug fixes for your iPhone.’
Apple and Google have announced their joint venture to develop a reliable COVID tracing app some time back in the wake of global concerns regarding Government-initiated applications the world over. Most of these concerns firstly, pertained to privacy concerns. With respect to the massive amounts of data they governing agencies were to be privy to. These were taken to be steps towards the eventual establishment of surveillance states. All in the name of mitigating the spread of COVID.
The Apple-Google software is primarily credited with being more reliable compared to Government mandated apps. Mainly because the collected information is said to be decentralised. With more and more states making the usage of COVID tracing apps mandatory, above mentioned concerns are bound to snowball.
How does the app work?
The smartphones with the technology will generate random, unique identifiers from the handset, at intervals of 15 minutes. This process will function on Bluetooth Low Energy.
Other phones using this technology in the vicinity will pick up on the identifier signal’s ID. This ID will divulge no information of the other user that can be used to identify him or her.
Neither does your information leave your device, nor does the list of ‘identifiers’ you have interacted with.
If you test positive for COVID, other identifiers you have interacted with recently. Do note, your identity will not be revealed to others.
Though the latest update ensures that you don’t need a local health authority’s app to receive notifications, some features may still be limited. Though Apple hasn’t specified which functions will be limited exactly, it has however cleared that Apple-Google will not be holding on to users’ data. The local health authority will be incharge of holding on to data of COVID positive citizens.
But again is this technology completely loop-hole free? What about when you want to tend to responsibilities of a citizen and alert others in case you’re COVID positive? And what about the mischief makers who may tamper with it? And what is this actually makes a case for integrating the system with government apps, thus taking the cycle back to where it began?