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Public health agencies are working in collaboration with the two tech giants to create apps that will use Bluetooth wireless technology to track people who have been in contact with COVID-19-positive patients.
Those who have tested positive for the virus will be required to verify their test results before entering their information into the apps. Those test results will then be reviewed by the health agencies helping to develop the apps, the companies said, according to Bloomberg.
An Apple spokesperson told FOX Business that only apps from an official public health agency would be able to provide confirmation of a COVID-19-positive patient because it is up to agencies to decide whether to mark someone as positive.
Apple and Google are expected to launch the Bluetooth contact tracing technology on U.S. Apple and Android operating systems, with user consent, in about two months so that users won't need to download an app for their phones to be traced, according to an April 10 joint statement from the two tech giants.
The idea behind the efifort s to help national governments roll out apps for contact tracing, a painstaking process of identifying, contacting and in some cases isolating people who have been near an infected person, that will run on iPhones and Android phones alike. Traditional methods of contact tracing has been made even more difficult because the novel coronavirus has been in the community spread stage for weeks, so it is difficult to connect people to a source of infection.
The technology works by harnessing short-range Bluetooth signals. Using the Apple-Google technology, contact-tracing apps would gather a record of other phones with which they came into close proximity.
Such data can be used to alert others who might have been infected by known carriers of the novel coronavirus, although only in cases where the phones' owners have installed the apps or agreed to open their phones to Apple and Google's tracing technology and agreed to share data with public-health authorities.
Software developers have already created such apps in countries including Singapore and China to try to contain the pandemic. In Europe, the Czech Republic says it will release such an app this month. Britain, Germany and Italy are also developing their own tracing tools.
Privacy and civil liberties activists have warned that such apps need to be designed so governments cannot abuse them to track their citizens. Apple and Google plan said in their April 10 statement that user privacy and security are baked into the design of their plan.
The U.S. is approaching 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This article has been updated to include information from Apple.