Apple and Google announce partnership to help track COVID-19 infections

Apple Google Partner On Covid 19 Contact Tracing Technology
Apple Google Partner On Covid 19 Contact Tracing Technology (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple and Google are partnering to fight COVID-19.
  • The companies are working on technology to help with contact tracing.
  • They will use Bluetooth technology to help keep user privacy in check.

Apple has announced a joint partnership with Google to assist governments and health agencies in fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. Apple made the announcement in a press release (opens in new tab) on the Apple Newsroom website this afternoon.

"Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design."

The companies have recognized contact tracing as a valuable tool in slowing the spread of the virus, and have committed to building a solution that uses Bluetooth technology to help track the pandemic. The companies say that using Bluetooth, rather than location tracking, will enable a level of user privacy that it hopes people will be comfortable with.

"Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing."

The companies will be rolling out the new technology in two stages, beginning in May. The first step will be to release APIs that enable apps developed to use the technology to work on both iOS and Android.

"First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores."

The second stage of the effort will focus on building a "Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform" into iOS and Android. According to Apple, this will enable users to opt into the program as well as help more apps to utilize it.

"Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze."

The companies believe that "there has never been a more important moment to work together" and hope that the technology could bring vital tools to those fighting the virus.

"All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world's most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life."

You can read the full press release at the Apple Newsroom (opens in new tab) website.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.

  • I cant get excited by this. Not only can my iPhone track me for the government (or more likely advertisers), but the Android phones around me can track me also. Seems like the total end of any privacy that we may have. Because if Apple or Google retains this data, it can be subject to a search warrant.
  • Planning on commiting some crimes there JbairdJr?
  • If you were using a smartphone you only had a limited amount of privacy anyway. The only way you can stay completely private is by using open-source software, from the OS to all the apps you use. Also I believe the search warrant thing is something American, I'm pretty certain that's not a thing in Europe, especially with the GDPR
  • Nah, it's a canadian thing too, but hey, if your not commiting crimes you have nothing to worry about right?
  • That's true, although many people do commit crimes, just ones that are harder to catch and aren't really that serious. People smoke weed, pirate movies. Creating a Hackintosh machine is also illegal, which might be more relevant to some users here. I can understand the sentiment to not wanting to be spied upon, plus laws can change without you realizing
  • Should move to canada. Weed is legal!
  • Hey I wouldn't say no, Canada sounds like a nice place. I don't really like living in the UK to be honest, Boris Johnson is almost as bad as Trump and Brexit was fueled by racists
  • Yep. he's a "smarter" Trump. Going from Obama to Trump is like going from an iphone to two soup cans with the peice of string at either end. And yes, Canada is an AWESOME place to live.
  • Even though I wasn't fully following American politics, I loved Obama as he came across as a very intelligent, thoughtful guy, and appeared to be putting forward great ideas. Going from Obama to Trump feels like the difference between Heaven and HeII, complete opposite ends of the spectrum
  • Yes, Being Canadian I am only indirectly affected by Trump and his lack of intelligence. Thank god we have a sane leader in Trudoeau. Yes, some of his thought on policy are not quite there, but he's willing to admit and accept when he's wrong. Being canadian these days brings with it great pride.