Up to two billion smartphone users around the world cannot use the coronavirus contact tracking app currently developed by Apple and Google.
Hundreds of millions of older smartphones that are still actively used do not have the required software and Bluetooth to run the new app, which could be released next month.
The app warns smartphone owners that they have come into contact with someone who has since been infected with the virus, and recommends isolating themselves.
This data will then be provided to governments and public health authorities around the world to help stop the spread of the disease.
But devices that are more than five years old lack the necessary wireless chips and software to use the app, meaning the demographics of the data may be lost, an expert says.
A mobile’s Bluetooth signals are used to track every other phone that the user has come in close contact with, and alert people if they may have been exposed to someone with Covid-19
“The underlying technology limitation lies in the fact that there are still some phones in use that do not have the necessary Bluetooth or the latest operating system,” Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, told the agency. Financial times.
“If you’re in a disadvantaged group and have an old device or a feature phone, you’re missing out on the benefits this app may offer.”
Among the 2 billion active smartphones that will be missed are likely to be poorer and older people, who are also among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
“Overall, nearly 2 billion will not benefit from this initiative worldwide,” said Neil Shah, an analyst at Counterpoint.
“And most of these users with the incompatible devices are from the lower income or upper segment, who are actually more vulnerable to the virus.”
Google and Apple are opening up their mobile operating systems so that both iPhone and Android devices can run the contacts tracking app.
The new app was announced earlier this month, which will be available for smartphones running Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.
“Software developers contribute by developing technical tools to help fight the virus and save lives,” Google said in a news release blog post.
The rival companies are opening up their mobile operating systems so that both iPhone and Android devices can run contact tracing apps
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 authorities reduce the spread of the virus, putting user privacy and security at the heart of the design. ‘
When two people come into contact with each other, each person’s phone exchanges Bluetooth signals through specific chips used to detect proximity between devices.
If a person using the app then tests positive for COVID-19, they can upload their movements to a public database.
Other users can then anonymously compare their own logs with others to see if they may have been exposed to a carrier of the virus.
If there is an agreement, the person will receive a message indicating when and where he or she may have been exposed, along with guidance on whether to look for symptoms alone, test or seek self-quarantine.
But the chips that start the process are missing, according to Counterpoint Research, with a quarter of the smartphones actively used worldwide worldwide, while 1.5 billion people in total use phones that don’t use Android or iOS at all.
Then there is the question of people not using a mobile phone or even taking one with them during their daily exercise fee.
When announcing the app, the two tech giants insist that the data remains anonymous and that ‘privacy, transparency and consent are paramount.’
Each phone records the date, time, distance and duration of the contact between the two devices, but does not use GPS data to ensure that the logs remain anonymous.
The app also periodically creates new ID codes for each device to make it difficult for authorities to trace an interaction back to specific individuals.
However, civil liberties groups have expressed concerns about the increasing online surveillance of the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctor and tele-health expert Eugene Gu said Google and Apple’s contact tracking technology has “ major implications ” for privacy rights and freedom.
“While it may be helpful to track down sick contacts during the coronavirus pandemic, the same technology can be used to prosecute political dissidents in a police state,” he tweeted.
Digital surveillance rolled out to curb the virus needs to be limited in time and scope, more than 100 rights groups also said earlier this month, warning governments not to use the crisis as a cover for ubiquitous sniffing.
“An increase in the state’s digital surveillance powers, such as accessing mobile phone location data, is threatening privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association,” said the groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Privacy International, in a statement.
WHAT DO TECH COMPANIES DO ABOUT COVID-19?
The social network provides the World Health Organization with as many free ads as necessary to provide users of the platform with the most accurate health information as clearly as possible.
It also launched the ‘Coronavirus Information Center’ – a special web page with COVID-19 sources and advice.
This is promoted at the top of users’ news feeds and leads them to the latest updates and guidelines from the NHS and WHO.
Facebook also makes its Workplace platform freely available to governments and emergency services to help those affected by the coronavirus.
All government organizations worldwide, at national or local level, are eligible for 12 months of free access to the Workplace premium tier.
Twitter has also recently decided to remove tweets from its site that promote conspiracy theories, misleading or dangerous advice, and other harmful ideas related to coronavirus.
Tweets that deny “ established scientific facts ” and expert guidance regarding the virus are flagged as harmful and removed, the site said in a blog post.
It gave examples of inaccurate tweets that would be quickly removed, including ‘dark-skinned people are immune to COVID-19 from melanin production’, ‘use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19’ and ‘the news about hands washing ‘is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands! “.
Google also partnered with the WHO to launch an SOS warning for the coronavirus, which appears at the top of the search results when users type ‘coronavirus’.
The search engine gives priority to information about the WHO virus, including official WHO updates on the spread of the virus and how to keep it safe.
Google is also working with Apple on a contact tracking app for Android and iOS, which would link phones between both operating systems to later inform users that they have come in contact with someone who has contracted a corona virus.