Apple and Google have revealed a bit more about their plans to support COVID-19 contact finder apps and have changed some of their security plans.
In one FAQ updated document released last Friday said companies plan to use a “privacy identifier – essentially, a string of random numbers that are not tied to a user's identity and change every 10 to 20 minutes to additional protection “. The pair's previous plan was to associate a key with each device.
The new travel ID will make it harder for those who follow Bluetooth signals to associate the keys with specific users. The companies said they had made the changes after consulting with government and health agencies around the world.
The companies also said the data would never reach a public health authority – or Apple and Google – until a person tested positive for COVID-19 and opted.
However, applications using the API will check the databases of the health authorities of declared carriers on a daily basis and associate these records with the meetings recorded on users' phones. What happens in the event of a match is not specified.
The regime described in the new FAQ also seems to have ended the debate on the advisability of using the “centralized” contact search which creates on the data source, or the “decentralized” scheme recommended by Apple, Google and the DP-3T effort to find contacts. The German Minister of Health, after the nation had previously promoted the PEPP-PT scheme, Told Die Welt the government now supports the decentralized approach. Switzerland and Austria did the same.
“This application must be voluntary, meet data protection standards and guarantee a high level of IT security,” they said. “The main epidemiological objective is to recognize and break the chains of infection as soon as possible,” said Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Apple and Google announce that their system will be released in two phases. The first will publish a whitelisted API to authorities in each country. “Applications will receive approval based on a specific set of criteria designed to ensure that they are only administered in collaboration with public health authorities, meet our privacy requirements and protect user data.”
The second phase will see the software installed at the operating system level. Apple hopes this will encourage widespread adoption of the tracking app, which experts say is necessary for its success. ®
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