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Apple-Google contact tracing apps not to access users’ location data

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Apple and Google have issued new updates about their exposure notification apps (earlier called contact tracing technology) where apps are prohibited from seeking permission to access users location services.

Use of the Application Programming Interface (API) will be restricted to one app per country to promote high user adoption and avoid fragmentation.

If a country has opted for a regional or state approach, the companies are prepared to support those authorities, the tech giants said in a statement.

On April 10, Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing, with user privacy and security core to the design.

Both the companies have provided developers with new resources to help them make exposure notification apps, including user interfaces (UI) and sample code for both iOS and Android.

“Apps must be created by or for a government public health authority and they can only be used for COVID-19 response efforts. Apps must require users to consent before the app can use the Exposure Notifications API,” said the new update.

Apps must require users to consent before sharing a positive test result, and the “Diagnosis Keys” associated with their devices, with the public health authority.

“Apps should only collect the minimum amount of data necessary and can only use that data for COVID-19 response efforts. All other uses of user data, including targeting advertising, is not permitted,” according to the new update.

In order to help developers build great apps, the companies will continue to release additional updates to their software and SDKs leading up to the shipping releases later this month.

Last week, Apple and Google released the very first version of their exposure notification API to select developers associated with public health authorities (PHAs) around the world.

That was a developer-focused release, with both the companies deliver beta copies of their software at the same time.

Aimed at helping developers begin testing in anticipation of the API’s release in mid-May, another goal of the release is to encourage feedback that will help improve the various features.

Amid the growing debate over privacy and security around contact tracing technology, the tech giant also announced updates to allay such fears, saying the Bluetooth-driven exposure notification system to enable iOS and Android phones trace the spread of coronavirus is completely safe.

Google and Apple have already released documentation on the Bluetooth and cryptography specifications as well as an API framework.

In addition, Apple is releasing Beta 3 of iOS 13.5, the first pre-release version of iOS to contain the code needed to run apps built using the exposure notification API.

Similarly, Google has delivered its beta Google Play Services update with the exposure notification API and the accompanying SDK privately to select developers who can begin testing using Android Developer Studio


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