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Apple, Google ban use of location tracking in COVID-19 contact tracing apps

Both companies said that privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal

twitter-logoReuters | May 5, 2020 | Updated 08:17 IST
Apple, Google ban use of location tracking in COVID-19 contact tracing apps

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google on Monday said they would ban the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system the two are building to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Apple and Google, whose operating systems power 99% of smart phones, said last month they would work together to create a system for notifying people who have been near others who have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease sometimes caused by the coronavirus.

Both companies said that privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

But the developers of coronavirus-related apps in several U.S. states told Reuters last month that it was vital that they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system in order to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots.

Apple and Google on Monday said they will not allow use of GPS data along with the contact tracing systems. That decision will require public health authorities who want to use GPS location data to rely on unstable workarounds to detect encounters using Bluetooth sensors.

Also read: How Google is protecting users from coronavirus-linked cyberattacks

Also read: Privacy in a pandemic: Only 66% countries with data protection laws, says study

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