The collaboration between Apple and Google is progressing to provide the health authorities of each country with the technical basis for creating applications for notification of exposure to COVID-19. This system is based on the fundamental pillars of privacy, security and transparency: during the past week, both companies updated the documentation on the Bluetooth specifications and cryptography in the development tools.
Today, Apple and Google are providing more resources to developers in order to build the applications that use the system: as we told you, it is the responsibility of each country to create its own app, which can only be built by the competent public health authority. For them, the two technologies today provide sample source code for both iOS and Android with which to build these applications, as well as sample interfaces of what the screens and user interaction flow should look like. The source code for iOS is now available for download from the Apple developer area.
Apple and Google offer governments the source code of a sample app, to use their exposure notification system
The basic requirements include the explicit user consent to enter the system and share a positive result ( and the random identifier that is generated ). Likewise, Apple and Google make it clear that these apps cannot ask for any additional permission ( like activating geolocation ) nor of course include any kind of advertising . Let’s look at the proposal of screens offered to the authorities:
Example for the welcome screen
The app presents here a welcome screen, explaining what it means to activate the exposure notifications, and what the system consists of in terms of privacy and operation. The text, both of the welcome screen and of the following information shown to the user, can be customized for each country.
Example for sending a positive test
False positives are to be avoided by validation of the test by the health authority
To report a positive COVID-19 test, action is taken against false reports: when sending our result, we must enter the unique code of the test we have been given, and the date on which it was given. This information, if we agree to share it with the authorized government, will be validated and then our randomly generated keys will be marked as “positive”
Example of an exposure notice
If we’ve been exposed, we’ll get a notification on the phone to let us know. By clicking on it, we will reach the app screens where all possible exposures marked as “positive” are shown, and the details of whether this exposure has already been validated by the country’s health authority – as well as the date when we were close to that person.
Settings in iOS to activate or deactivate the system
It’s already available in the iOS 13.5 beta 3 we saw last week. On iPhone, exposure notification activation can be enabled from the Privacy Health section of iOS. Here you can check or uncheck to participate in the program at any time. If we uncheck it, even if we have the country app installed, sharing and tracking will be disabled. In this same section, we will see information about the active app at all times, as well as the number of checks against other users that the system has compared since we activated the system.
Apple and Google will continue working on improving the development tools and system, prior to the launches scheduled for the end of this month. Last week, Apple delivered a new release to the developers of Xcode 11.5 with the pre-release tools needed to run applications created with the Exposure Notification API.
The final version of the API will be released at the end of this month, but you can already start working on the apps with the documentation and tools provided by Apple and Google before the release
The companies stress the importance of having a single official app , supported by the government of each country – in order to avoid fragmentation and increase the adoption rate of the system. However, they are prepared to provide technical support to those countries that prefer to delegate the construction of this app to the regional level, within them.
They also regularly update all the information about the system, its documentation and the frequently asked questions, which in Apple’s case can be found on a special page created for this purpose.