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Fighting COVID-19 with technology, contact tracing right on your phone

Posted at 6:51 AM, May 07, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Washing your hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing are all the steps you are taking to stop the spread of coronavirus. And now-- Apple and Google are teaming up to create a high-tech tool to fight Covid-19 as well.

"You need to have contact tracing technology, people doing contract tracing and individual measures like washing hands and wearing masks," Sarah Kreps, Cornell University Professor of Government and security said. "I think in conjunction with these other approaches will work."

Apple and Google are calling the technology Exposure Notification API.
The Bluetooth on your phone will track Covid-19 encounters and let you know if you came in contact with someone who was diagnosed via a notification on your phone.

Kreps said you should think of this contact tracing technology like a phone handshake. You have to agree to download it, and it doesn't store any of your data.

"This is decentralized, and it is all on your phone. Second, it's using Bluetooth keys that are anonymized, and there's no user data, no location, and GPS data." Kreps said.

Kreps says for this to work, 60 percent of the population and 80 percent of smartphone users have to participate.
She says privacy concerns have been top of mind for both tech giants creating this downloadable feature.

We asked Professor Kreps if she thinks this will work?

"It depends what we mean by work. I think it will be effective in alerting people to whether they have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive.”

This wouldn’t come without risk. Kreps says there’s a chance this could also backfire and create false-negatives.
Apple and Google have not announced when this will be available and say they will discontinue the system when the crisis is over.