The operating system providers Google and Apple are making a new Bluetooth interface available for Corona apps. With the help of the new API, Android devices and iPhones should be able to exchange data for contact tracking in compliance with data protection and battery-saving. Several U.S. states and 22 countries worldwide on five continents have asked for access to the interface, according to the companies.
Google and Apple announced their unusual cooperation on April 10, 2020. This is intended to make it easier for the authorities to track infection chains using smartphone apps during the coronavirus pandemic. Based on the exchanged IDs, people can be warned if they have come into contact with an infected person. Google and Apple opted for the so-called decentralized approach for the interface. This means that the IDs of the installed apps are not assigned and managed centrally by a server, but locally on the devices. These also evaluate the risk of infection locally.
Location access prohibited
The US companies admitted that the Bluetooth radio standard had never been developed for such a purpose. However, they assume that the interface requires very little energy and therefore does not put as much strain on the battery. This is also due to the fact that the new interface basically does not allow communication, but only sends out its own ID and receives the IDs of the other devices.
Google and Apple confirmed in a conference call on Wednesday the strong restrictions on the use of the API. This must be explicitly activated by the users. It can then be deactivated at any time. Unlike the current interface for Bluetooth Low Energy, which requires access to the location data, this is expressly prohibited with the new interface. In the event of an infection, those affected can decide whether to upload their anonymous IDs.
Only one app allowed per country
In principle, the US companies only allow one app per country. However, exceptions are possible if, for example, as in the USA, the states want to develop their own apps. Google and Apple reserve the right to deactivate the function after the epidemic has subsided in the individual countries.
According to the companies, numerous health authorities, non-governmental organizations, scientists, governments and data protection experts were involved in the development of the API. Among other things, it dealt with questions of interoperability, battery consumption and privacy. Google and Apple had already provided the first test code at the end of April. The feedback from the tests should have flowed into the now released version.