Apple and Google will prohibit location tracking by apps using their new coronavirus contract tracking API, newly renamed ExposureNotification.
In a set of guidelines [PDF] for the API released today, companies said developers will not be able to access or even request permission to access location data using the app.
This is a welcome change, as Android currently requires location access to be enabled for permanent Bluetooth of the type required by contact search apps to work, even if GPS data is not used.
The two companies began to develop the system after the concept of contact tracing gained favor, but it was quickly pointed out that the constant use of Bluetooth is prohibited by design in iOS and Android.
The new guidelines also state that only public health authorities will be able to use the API, and only one app per country will be allowed in app stores.
The first version of the API was released to developers last week. Today Release includes a new set of resources to help developers get started developing the app, including sample UI assets and sample code for iOS and Android.
Apple and Google have said they will continue to support countries that decide to use locally produced tracking systems, such as France, the United Kingdom and Australia. These systems use a more basic Bluetooth system to register users who have passed each other, but can of course update their applications.
Apple and Google will continue to release updates and development kits before releasing a public version of the API to consumers later this month. ®
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