Apple and Google’s plan to track the spread of COVID-19 by tracing the contacts of those with confirmed cases through Bluetooth technology on their cellphones got an early blessing on Friday from the U.K.’s privacy watchdog, while the American Civil Liberties Union said it was “cautiously optimistic,” according to Law360.
The article adds that Elizabeth Denham, head of the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office, said on Friday that the plan “aligned with the principles” of U.K. privacy law, including by mandating by design that only necessary information about specific people is collected. The proposal doesn’t currently call for individuals’ specific location histories to be tracked, for example.
“The principles of data protection by design and by default are central to the law, and we were pleased to see Google and Apple making clear how they are aligning with these principles in their joint work on contact tracing technology,” the ICO’s office said in a blog post.
On April 10, Apple and Google announced a joint effort to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19. They’ll launch a solution that includes APIs and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy
First, in May, both companies will release application programming interfaces [APIs] that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores. Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms.