Combating coronavirus: Have you seen a Covid-19 tracker on your phone?

COVID-19 exposure, Combating coronavirus, google, Apple, coronavirus tracker, phone

Dubai - The technology works in conjunction with participating apps health authorities of a particular country.

By Purva Grover

Published: Mon 29 Jun 2020, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 29 Jun 2020, 9:45 PM

If you recently got a broadcast message on social media warning you about a coronavirus tracker that has been installed into your phone, then you need to understand the meaning behind the alert. Google and Apple have introduced a coronavirus contact tracing technology to aid in identifying whether a user has been exposed to someone with the disease. Called the COVID-19 exposure notifications, the technology works in conjunction with participating apps health authorities of a particular country.

Where to find it on your smartphone?
>Apple users will find it under 'settings', 'privacy', then 'health'.
>Android users will find it under 'settings' then 'Google'.
How to install?
To use the system, download the public health authority's app, it may or may not be available in your country.
How does it work?
Once you turn on the exposure notifications within the app from your region's government public health authority, your phone will share 'random IDs' with other nearby phones that also have turned on the same. Through the day, your phone and the devices around you will exchange random IDs. When your phone detects a random ID from another device, it will record and store the ID/s.
How will it help you and the others?
If a user reports having Covid-19 and their ID is stored on your phone, the app will notify you of the next steps to take. It will also notify you of the duration of the contact with this user as well. However, in order to use the feature, the app asks the user to turn on the phone's Bluetooth as well as the phone's location setting, stating that the system uses this to scan for Bluetooth signals.
Worried about privacy?
In May, Apple and Google had released this technology. The companies have stated that the feature is only turned on when a user chooses to. You will find it on your Android or Apple phone, turned off by default. According to the Apple website, the technology is "designed to protect your privacy". The notifications system itself does not use your location or share other users' identities with the app, Google or Apple. 
Meanwhile, in the UAE
Currently, the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Abu Dhabi Health Authority, and Dubai Health Authority have provided an app named ALHOSN UAE for smartphones and devices, which does not work with the Google feature. The UAE's free-of-cost app too alerts users if they have been in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 patient.
Across the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect people and get society back up and running. Software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.


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