Utah rejects Apple and Google, builds its own contact tracing solution

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

  • Utah is ditching Apple and Google's contact tracing solution.
  • It is instead going with its own app built by a social media startup.
  • The app uses both Bluetooth and GPS to track potential exposure between people.

Uta is taking contact tracing into its own hands and has tasked a social media startup to build its app, according to a report by CNBC. The app, called Healthy Together, has been downloaded by 45,000 people in the state so far.

"More than 45,000 people have signed up for Utah's contact tracing app, Healthy Together, since it was released in late April, the app's developers told CNBC. That represents about 2% of the state's population, but could still be helpful to the state's health department as they attempt to track and notify people who might have been exposed."

The app was built by Twenty, a social media startup who was contracted by the state of Utah. According to Utahpolicy.com, the state spent $2.75 million for the app's development and will continue to pay $300,000 per month in maintenance fees.

"Healthy Together was built by Twenty, a social media start-up that previously built an app that helps young people meet up in person. After the pandemic started, the state of Utah reached out to the company, the founders said. With their staff of about 50 employees, they repurposed their social media-oriented technology for contact tracing in three weeks."

The app, unlike Apple and Google's solution, uses both Bluetooth and GPS to track potential exposure between two people. Apple and Google's approach has been to limit the technology to Bluetooth, a more privacy-centric solution. Twenty says, however, that users are in control of sharing their data and that all data is deleted after thirty days.

"Twenty's founders say that the app is totally opt-in and that users can choose to limit permissions such as GPS or Bluetooth on their phones if they don't want their location to be tracked. The user also has a choice to share their location data with the public health department if they test positive, and any Bluetooth or GPS data is deleted after 30 days, Twenty said."

Twenty apparently plans to sell the app and backend to other states as well as private companies for contact tracing purposes.

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.