someone holding a smartphone

A big part of the solution to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 may be tracking your smartphone.

Apple and Google have a plan to help flatten the curve of the spread of the Coronavirus, but it is raising issues about privacy and security.

  This plan uses the Bluetooth on your phone and everyone else’s device. If you, or more specifically your phone comes in close proximity with someone tests positive for Covid-19, you’ll be notified.

Here’s how Google and Apple say it will work. Let’s say you’re walking through the airport, and you pass by other people, the devices share location data using Bluetooth and what’s known as a tracking beacon. Later, one of those people develops symptoms and tests positive, that information is uploaded to the cloud and anyone in the past two weeks who has come in close contact with them will receive a notification on their phone that they may have been exposed and should be tested themselves.  Since Google and Apple are working together, the information is shared by iPhones and Android devices.

Apple and Google aren’t developing the app, but will release tools so other companies can develop the apps. 

The companies say identities will be protected and you won’t know the name of the person with the virus. But the apps might make that information available provided the person agrees to share their identity. This will require two things. That users install the apps on their phone, and self-report their diagnosis.

Of course, this brings up privacy issues about tracking and the sharing of health information. Much of what we’ll need to pay attention to, is all the apps that will be available and what other information they’ll be getting and what they do with it.

There’s no word on how soon the tools will be available and how long it will take those companies to develop apps, but it won’t be long.