Don’t be alarmed if you come across a COVID-19 tracking tool on your smartphone that’s been installed out of nowhere. The feature has been rolled out for all phones owing to a collaboration between Apple and Google, who have developed an API (Application Program Interface) that can track COVID-19 cases.
The feature is available globally and appears in Google’s Settings option for both Android and iOS.
However, it has been found that the feature does not work in India. Here’s why:
Why Doesn’t the Apple & Google COVID-19 Tracker Work in India?
As of now, the Apple-Google API will not work in India as this tool only works with a COVID-19 tracking application that has been installed on the phone.
“What we have built is not an app – rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own app that people install,” the companies said in a release.
Now, you’ll say that India already has a COVID-19 tracker in the Aarogya Setu app which has been developed by the Indian government.
Yes, while India does have its own tracking app, it does not work with the Apple-Google tool probably because the Aarogya Setu app uses the phone’s location to track cases and, at the same time, the Apple-Google tool forbids the uses of location data and only uses Bluetooth technology.
“The public health authority app is not allowed to use your phone’s location,” a Google blog states.
Another reason could be that the API doesn't allow the public authorities to collect the phone numbers of the users, as the Aarogya Setu app collects such information during the registration process.
Aarogya Setu collects and stores most of the data on the user’s phone and uploads it only if required.
How Does the Feature Work?
The “Exposure Notification API” is by default turned off but users can always opt-in by turning on the Bluetooth on their smartphone. If the phone Bluetooth is active the feature is on by default.
If two people are in close proximity and in Bluetooth range for more than 5 minutes the tools on their respective phones exchange an identifier signal. If any of the two individuals tests positive the data enters the government database.
Also, the information about the people they came close to in the last 14 days is uploaded to the cloud.
If a third person is about to get close to an infected individual, the API will send a notification on the phone and people can be alerted.
There is no official list yet but some of the countries that have partnered with Apple and Google to release this API are Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Uruguay.
Canada, Spain and some US states are also planning to come on board.