The developers of the largest mobile operating systems in the world, Apple and Google, have announced that they are combining their efforts to launch an API that should allow Android and iOS smartphones to communicate with each other to assist authorities in their contact tracing efforts, a measure that has proven to be among the most effective ones in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
Both companies published a press release yesterday where they disclosed further details about their joint endeavour. The purpose of the collaboration is to launch “a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing”.
Adding that the solution would “enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design”.
Both Apple and Google saw their share prices soar this week, as the investment community seems to think the worst of the virus is over.
Apple (AAPL) shares started the week trading at $251.16 and saw an 8.7% jump on Monday to close the week at $267.99, resulting in an 11.2% weekly gain. Meanwhile, Google (GOOG) shares opened Monday’s session at $1,135 and surged by 8.3% by the end of the day while closing the week with a 10% gain at $1,206.57.
The California-based companies expect to launch this API by May as they continue to refine the technical details that will allow the systems to communicate effectively, while they also hold talks with governments and health agencies to address security, accuracy, and privacy concerns.
This unprecedented partnership between two tech giants that are usually in the opposite side of the battlefield has caused both positive and negative remarks from different sides of the alley, as privacy and data safety advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union have voiced their concerns in a white paper titled “The Limits of Location Tracking in an Epidemic”.
In this regard, the New-York based organization, which advocates for individual rights and liberties protection, commented: “there is a danger that simplistic understandings of how technology works will lead to investments that do little good, or are actually counterproductive, and that invade privacy without producing commensurate benefits”.
Meanwhile, the federal government has not issued any official comments on the program, even though President Trump shared his view on the matter: “It’s very new, new technology. It’s very interesting”, while adding: “But a lot of people worry about it in terms of a person’s freedom”.