apple and google have announced that they are joining forces to develop COVID-19 contact tracing technology. the tech giants will collaborate to 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’. since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread.


apple and google’s solution includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy. beginning in may 2020, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. these official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.


secondly, the companies will work to enable a broader bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. the companies say that this is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.


‘privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders,’ say apple and google in a joint statement. ‘we will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze. all of us at apple and google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.’


as part of this partnership, google and apple are releasing draft technical documentation including bluetooth and cryptography specifications and framework documentation.