Apple, Google coronavirus API comes to India: What you need to know – Latest News

The exposure notification technology jointly developed by Google and Apple has begun rolling out in India through updates on their smartphone operating systems — iOS and Android. Public health authorities in India could now use the API to build a contact tracing app that is integrated deeply with the mobile operating system, thus avoiding technical glitches such as loss of tracking when the app is in the background. The technology also put greater emphasis on privacy — there is no a central database of users; user consent is essential; their identity is masked using encrypted keys; they will only be notified if they have come in proximity to an infected person but not who and from where; and it does not use GPS location signal, which is more intrusive. Note: It is an API to help build an app and not an app in itself.

However, to date, no state or central government has shown any interest in using the API. The Aarogya Setu app by the central government does not rely on the said API, and will continue to function on its own, so will contact tracing apps developed by other state governments. The privacy protocols of the exposure notification technology by Apple and Google are more stringent than most of these apps, and it remains to be seen if authorities are willing to trade the loss of control for a more stable (and privacy-focussed) technology.

But there is a precedent. The United Kingdom this month said it will ditch its contact tracing app developed by the National Health Service in favour of the decentralised technology by Apple and Google. The NHS contact-tracing app was buffeted with technical glitches, including failure to detect Bluetooth signals and thus contacts, and complaints by privacy advocates. Norway, too, is likely to abandon its contact-tracing app after its data protection authority said it represented a disproportionate intrusion into users’ privacy. India, though, has yet to enact a data protection law.

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