COVID-19: Google Begins to Roll Out Exposure Notification Solution

The Exposure Notification solution which was launched last month is now being rolled out on Android and iPhone devices in India. Google and Apple developed this technology. It is an Application Program Interface (API), which allows contact-tracing applications built by public health agencies and governments to work efficiently.

Apple and Google have created a set of privacy guidelines in which contact-tracing device applications are expected to agree on the terms and conditions imposed by organisations, particularly those relating to privacy, should the developers intend to add additional functionality and features to their apps. These set of terms and conditions allow users to clearly and explicitly opt-in to utilise technology, to avoid the collection or processing of location data from the device, etc.

As per the information published by Google, access to the Exposure Notification will be given only to apps developed by public health authorities. The apps should comply with specific criteria concerning security, data use, and privacy.

Every Exposure Notification matching will happen on a user’s device, which implies that only the user and his app will know if he/she has reported having COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone who reported having COVID-19. The user’s identity will not be shared with other users, Google, or Apple.

Also Read: Facebook To Provide More Context on Posts Related to COVID-19

If the user decides to use the Exposure Notification solution, the programme will create a random ID for a user’s device, thus ensuring that these random IDs are updated every 10-20 minutes so that they cannot be used to identify the user or his/her location. The user’s device and the other phones in the vicinity would then function in the background to share these random IDs via Bluetooth without the need for the device to be opened for this process to take place.

The phone will then regularly search all random IDs that are related to positive COVID-19 cases against its list; if there is a match, the device will contact the user with guidance from the relevant public health authority.

For making the Aarogya Setu app compatible with the solution, a few tweaks have to be done in the app. For example, the Exposure Notification, by design, restricts the collection or use of device location data. The knowledge sharing protocol concerning the Aarogya Setu app allows location and contact data to be collected to implement or formulate required health responses.

The Aarogya Setu app, India’s contact-tracing platform is not compliant with the Exposure Notification solution. In response to a question asked whether Aarogya Setu would be modified to fulfil the criteria for the programme, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology mentioned that Google had not taken a decision yet. Many countries have adopted the technology in Europe such as Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, etc. with several of them creating their contact-tracing apps based on the Exposure Notification protocols.

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