Did Google and Apple put a COVID-19 tracking app on your phone? Here is the truth
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A message has been doing the rounds on social media which goes: COVID -19 sensor has been 'inserted' into every phone.

Apparently when everyone was having ‘phone disruptions’ earlier this week, they were adding COVID-19 Trackers to our phones!

If you have an Android phone, go under Settings, then click on google, settings and it’s there. If you have an iPhone, go to settings, privacy, then health, It’s there but not yet functional. Please check. I checked and it is true.”

Did Google and Apple put a COVID-19 tracking app on your phone? Here is the truth
Did Google and Apple put a COVID-19 tracking app on your phone? Here is the truth

This was shared with a picture which showed an app called COVID-19 Exposure notifications.

While one might want to launch into a diatribe on Big Brother in Silicon Valley, the truth is far more disappointing. Google and Apple haven’t uploaded an automatic tracking app on your phone. The setting which shows ‘COVID-19 Exposure Notifications’

Did Google and Apple put a COVID-19 tracking app on your phone? Here is the truth

So what has been uploaded? It’s not an app but as Forbes describes it: “It's not an app; it's the framework within the operating system that will allow such an app to function once it becomes available and if you decide to install it.”

It follows this statement from Google and Apple from May 2020.

One of the most effective techniques that public health officials have used during outbreaks is called contact tracing. Through this approach, public health officials contact, test, treat and advise people who may have been exposed to an affected person. One new element of contact tracing is Exposure Notifications: using privacy-preserving digital technology to tell someone they may have been exposed to the virus. Exposure Notification has the specific goal of rapid notification, which is especially important to slowing the spread of the disease with a virus that can be spread asymptomatically.

To help, Apple and Google cooperated to build Exposure Notifications technology that will enable apps created by public health agencies to work more accurately, reliably and effectively across both Android phones and iPhones. Over the last several weeks, our two companies have worked together, reaching out to public health officials, scientists, privacy groups and government leaders all over the world to get their input and guidance.

Starting today, our Exposure Notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. What we’ve built is not an app—rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.

Today, this technology is in the hands of public health agencies across the world who will take the lead and we will continue to support their efforts.

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