Coronavirus outbreak: Location tracking not allowed in apps using APIs jointly built by Apple, Google

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Published: May 5, 2020 8:18 PM

Apple and Google, on Monday, published the COVID-19 Exposure Notification Terms of Service and policies to ensure transparency about how the API will work, and to help developers understand the criteria to use the API.

Last month, Apple and Google had said they will launch a comprehensive solution that includes APIs and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.

Apple and Google will not allow location tracking in apps that use the API (needed to make apps) being jointly built by the two tech giants to help health agencies reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, the development is unlikely to have an impact on apps like Aarogya Setu.

Last month, Apple and Google had said they will launch a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.
Application program interface or API is a set of functions and procedures used for building software and apps.

According to sources, the location history restriction would apply only for apps that want to use this specific Google-Apple APIs, and will not impact any existing apps that have their own APIs for contact tracing.

This means the development is unlikely to have an impact on Aarogya Setu, given that it uses its own APIs. Indian government’s mobile app Aarogya Setu, developed for tracking coronavirus patients, has recorded about nine crore downloads. The app alerts people if any person in their vicinity has tested positive for COVID-19.

Apple and Google, on Monday, published the COVID-19 Exposure Notification Terms of Service and policies to ensure transparency about how the API will work, and to help developers understand the criteria to use the API.
To put it simply, they have spelt out the terms and conditions for developers for using the API.

According to the policies, apps made using the said API must be created by or for a government public health authority, and can only be used for efforts on COVID-19 response. Also, the apps can collect limited necessary data and can only use that information for COVID-19 response efforts.

All other uses of data, including targeting advertising, is not permitted. Also, the apps are not allowed to seek permission to access location services.

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