MANILA, Philippines – Apple and Google have laid out new policies for the use of their coronavirus exposure notification application programming interface (API) – a framework for a system that uses Bluetooth to detect possible contact between people in order to warn those who may have been exposed to the COVID-19. It is a cross-platform system, meaning both Apple iOS and Google Android devices can be logged.
The API is meant to be implemented by developers for their app. (READ: How the Apple-Google exposure notification system plans to keep users anonymous)
On Monday, May 4, the two companies announced a set of usage guidelines for the system, as reported by various US media. As reported by TechCrunch, there are 6 rules:
The app that uses the exposure notification system must be made by and for the use of the official government public health authority. The system can only be used for the purpose of responding to COVID-19.
The user must be asked for and must give their consent before the system can be used on a user’s device.
The user must also give their consent to share a positive test result before the app and the government health authority can broadcast the info to the network.
The app should only gather the minimum amount of info necessary to effectively notify people of possible exposure. Apps are forbidden from using any info for advertising purposes and non-COVID-19 purposes.
The app cannot access or seek permission to access devices’ location data. Location data is not necessary in alerting users that they’ve potentially come across a person infected with COVID-19. Current contact tracing apps that use location data will continue to exist on app stores but will not have access to the new exposure notification API.
There can only be one app per country using the new API. It is believed that a contact tracing system will be more efficient with the population using just one system. But in the US, the 2 companies have said that they are open to working with authorities regarding regional or state-by-state implementation, with different apps being able to work together.
Apple and Google have vowed to keep the system private through the use of cryptography, and have said that they’ll discontinue the system once the crisis has passed. Along with the new guidelines, the two companies shared screenshots and sample code of the API.
Apple and Google originally announced the coronavirus exposure API on April 10. It was originally called “Contact Tracing API,” before being renamed “Exposure Notification API,” likely due to privacy fears that have began to surround the term contact tracing.