return icon Vietnamnet.vn

Apple and Google accelerate coronavirus contact tracing apps plan

Tech giants add privacy protections to the contact-tracing scheme they are offering to public authorities.

{keywords}

 

Apple and Google have tightened privacy measures in the contact-tracing scheme they are offering to health authorities and brought forward its launch.

The tech giants now intend to release a software building block to developers on Tuesday, allowing them to build compatible apps. A fortnight ago, the firms said it would take until mid-May.

Apple's version will require an updated version of its mobile operating system.

Some countries, however, would prefer the firms to be less prescriptive.

France and Germany have confirmed they are pursuing designs of their own, and are pressing Apple to let them have greater access to the iPhone's capabilities without having to adopt the initiative. 

In a blog published earlier, NHSX, the digital wing of the NHS, confirmed it was "working with Apple and Google" on its UK contact tracing app, but stopped short of committing itself to the companies' framework.

Virus alerts

Contact-tracing apps are based on the principle that people's smartphones can be used to log when two people are in close enough proximity for long enough that there's a high risk of contagion if one of them has the coronavirus.

If one of the phone-owners is subsequently diagnosed as having caught the virus, others they might have infected can be sent alerts advising them to get tested or go into self-isolation.

By combining the use of such apps with other measures - including manual contact tracing by humans and frequent handwashing - the hope is that the spread of the disease can be slowed or suppressed.

Apple and Google's system is based on the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) beacons. Effectively, the two handsets wirelessly "shake hands" with each other, and in doing so exchange a string of randomly-generated numbers that can be used to log matches without revealing the users' names, location or other identifying information.

Representatives from the team responsible said they had listened to feedback received from health authorities, governments and data protection watchdogs, and made changes to both increase security and to make it easier for apps to be built using the API (application programming interface) building block they are providing.

These changes include:

  • giving information about different devices' Bluetooth power levels, to help developers better estimate how far two handsets are from each other
  • letting developers decide for themselves how close together phones should be and for how long to trigger a handshake
  • preventing the phones from logging any meeting as having lasted longer than 30 minutes
  • encrypting data about the transmission power of the phones, to prevent anyone retrospectively using the logs to reveal what models had been involved
  • changing to a different encryption algorithm - AES - to reduce the toll on battery life

Apple will require users to install a new version of iOS 13 to use the API. That means any handset older than the iPhone 6S - which was released in September 2015 - will be incompatible.

Any Android device running version 6 of Google's operating system, which launched in October 2015, or higher will work without needing an update.

Background Bluetooth

Apple and Google's system has been described as "decentralised" as the contact-matching takes place on the users' devices, preventing the authorities being able to see who got an alert unless a user decides to disclose the fact - for example to request a diagnostic test.

But some countries are pursuing "centralised" designs. This would give them more insight into the number of alerts being sent out and potentially the ability to re-identify users, meaning they would not truly be anonymous.

However, these nations face a problem with the iPhone versions of their software. Apple places restrictions on third-party apps' use of Bluetooth, which it is only dropping if the authorities adopt its scheme.

"Bluetooth is heavily restricted on iOS when the app is in the background," explained Quentin Zervaas, a developer who is building a Google-Apple compliant app.

"It can be used to occasionally broadcast or receive data while backgrounded, but there are no guarantees how frequently this would be, and the app would be competing against any other apps on your phone trying to use Bluetooth.

"So for contact tracing it can't constantly send or receive the necessary data necessary to effectively keep track of every device you come into contact with.

"[This] is why I think all the contact tracing apps should be using the system level tools Apple and Google are rolling out."

Apple and Google declined to discuss the implications of countries that opt to go it alone.BBC

MORE NEWS

VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES AUGUST 11

NA Standing Committee adopts resolutions on establishment of administrative units

Retail oil and petrol prices fall for fifth consecutive time

Vietnam decided on Thursday to further lower retail prices of oil and petrol on Thursday, the fifth consecutive time since late June.

Vietnamese Gov’t issues national strategy to combat new cyber security challenges

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has ratified the national cyber security strategy in response to cyberspace challenges till 2025 with a vision towards 2030.

Vietnam to import vaccines and drugs to treat monkeypox

Drugs containing the active ingredients Tecovirimat, Brincidofvir, Cidofovir, and Probenecid are those recommended by WHO.

Finland third EU country to suspend recognition of Vietnam’s new passports

The embassy of Finland in Hanoi said the reason for the non-recognition is due to the lack of place of birth on the new passports.

Miss World 2021 Karolina Bielawska arrives in Vietnam

Reigning Miss World Karolina Bielawska arrived in Vietnam on August 10 as a special guest of the finale of Miss World Vietnam 2022 slated for August 12 evening.

VND207 trillion worth of property bonds to fall due in 2023-2024

Bad debt in the real estate sector is projected to surge as property bonds worth over VND207.8 trillion will fall due in 2023 and 2024.

More than 300 businesses attend ASEAN Online Sale Day 2022

ASEAN Online Sale Day 2022, part of activities marking the 55th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), kicked off on Monday, drawing more than 300 businesses from the region.

Vietnamese steel faces more trade remedy lawsuits

The Mexican Secretariat of Economy has announced an anti-dumping investigation into cold-rolled steel imported from Vietnam, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

VIETNAM BUSINESS NEWS AUGUST 11

High-quality human resources key to sustainable tourism industry

Five most beautiful villages nationwide

Leaving the busy streets of cities to go to towns with pristine beauty allows travelers the chance to experience peaceful moments once they visit the five following beautiful villages.

HCM City, Hanoi earn highest revenue from tourism

In the first seven months of 2022, localities across the country recorded a high increase in tourism revenue led by HCM City, Hanoi, Thanh Hoa, and Quang Ninh.

Message about peace from the war remembrance garden of former naval soldier

Veteran Tran Van Quan has spent a lot of effort and time collecting leftover bomb and ammo shells to create a garden of war objects offering meaningful messages.

Storm Mulan causes flight disruption in Vietnam

Several airlines were forced to either readjust or cancel their flight schedules on domestic routes on August 11 due to the impact caused by Storm Mulan which weakened into a tropical depression.

Korean singer shows love for Vietnamese destinations in new MV

Vietnam looks stunning in a music video “Waiting for You – 5,000 Years” newly released by Republic of Korean singer and composer Joseph Kwon to mark the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
back_to_top