Earlier this year Google and Apple joined hands to fight Covid-19 by developing a contact tracing API. This API, when implemented in an app, use the smartphone’s Bluetooth and location data to inform about Covid-19 patients around you and the high-risk areas.
Although India has its own contact tracing app – Aarogya Setu, which is downloaded more than 1 million times from the Google Play Store and is being used by more than 13.5 crore users, a report from TOI states that Apple and Google have now approached the Indian government with their API to be implemented in the app.
While Google and Apple have not confirmed the move, the report has quoted one of the government officials mentioning that the Google and Apple API implementation might not be required for the Aarogya Setu. “Aarogya Setu has an in-built contact-tracing API and thus may not require this,” the official said.
Previous reports suggest that this contact tracing API by Google and Apple can only be used in one app per country and from the looks of it, Aarogya Setu doesn’t seem to be in the list.
This also means that Google’s Covid-19 exposure notification system, which went live for several Android phones yesterday, won’t be of any use even after you enable it from the Settings app. It would require an app to work and Aarogya Setu is not in the list for now.
In April this year, Google and Apple formed a rare alliance to develop the exposure notification system. The purpose of the API is to help the health authorities trace contacts of users infected or at risk of getting infected by the Covid-19. The technology uses Bluetooth Low Energy to detect phones in proximity and exchange data.
Google and Apple have stressed that the API does not violate users’ privacy as the data shared is anonymous. This essentially means personally identifiable information is not exposed. Google and Apple have also barred the public health authority app from using your phone’s location. To block tracking, your phone’s random ID changes every 10-20 minutes.