Apple, Google Address Concerns About Their Coronavirus Contact Tracing System

Apple Inc. and Google are planning to strengthen the system's privacy protections.
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Apple Inc.  (AAPL) - Get Report and Alphabet's  (GOOGL) - Get Report Google said they are updating the coronavirus contact tracing system they plan to release next month to strengthen privacy protections and provide more details to health officials.

The two tech giants said the system’s tracking keys will be generated in more random ways. In addition, Bluetooth data will now be encrypted to make it more difficult for specific users to be identified by hackers. 

The companies also said that apps using the tool will now limit the recording of the time people are exposed to an infected person to a maximum of 30 minutes.

The tracking system does not use GPS location data and stores the most sensitive data in a decentralized way on users' phones, but it has been criticized for potentially sharing too much private health data. Health and privacy researchers also cited privacy concerns that the companies addressed on Friday by making it harder to use system-generated data to track people.

The two companies announced earlier this month that they were collaborating on the mobile software that would help track the spread of the coronavirus. The opt-in tool would be embedded in Android and iOS operating systems, and is designed for "contact tracing," or tracking how the virus spreads from person to person. 

The tool would tell people if they have been in contact with someone who was infected with the virus, and also allow users to report to a public health agency if they have been infected. 

Shares of Apple were up 2% to $280.54 on Friday, while those of Alphabet were off 1.1% to $1,257.37.

The first phase of the system consists of tools for public health apps to add contact tracing, and will launch publicly in mid-May after an early beta version of the software is released to developers next week. 

In the coming months, the technology will be embedded more deeply into the Apple and Google operating systems and become less reliant on apps.

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