First App Using Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification API Launches in Switzerland

The first app that takes advantage of the Exposure Notification API developed by Apple and Google has launched in Switzerland, according to a report from the BBC.

exposure notification cartoon
A team of app developers working on contact tracing app called SwissCovid have rolled out the app in a beta capacity for members of the Swiss army, hospital workers, and civil servants. After the app is tested and approved by MPs, it will see a wider public rollout, which could happen by mid-June.

Latvia also soon plans to introduce an app that uses the API, but other European countries are hesitant. The digital affairs ministers for Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal recently published a joint letter that criticizes the Apple/Google API for the restrictions put in place, mainly the decentralized device-to-device notification approach and the lack of location data collection.

"The use of digital technologies must be designed in such a way that we, as democratically elected governments, evaluate it and judge it acceptable to our citizens and in accordance with our European values," read the letter. "We believe that challenging this right by imposing technical standards represents a misstep and a missed opportunity for open collaboration between governments and the private sector."

Apple released the Exposure Notification API as part of iOS 13.5 last week. At the time, Apple said that several U.S. states and 22 countries had requested and received access to the API, with more expected to join.

In the United States, there are no apps available that take advantage of ‌Exposure Notification‌ as of yet, but Alabama, South Carolina, and North Dakota all plan to use the API. The UK, Australia, multiple European states, and several U.S. states, such as Utah, have opted out of using the API.

The ‌Exposure Notification‌ feature in iOS 13.5 is deactivated by default and cannot be used without an app created by a public health authority. It is also privacy focused and collects no personally identifiable data or location information, with more details available in our Exposure Notification guide.
This article, "First App Using Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API Launches in Switzerland" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple and Google Launch COVID-19 Exposure Notification API, Over 20 Countries Have Requested and Received Access

Apple and Google today launched their Exposure Notification API to assist public health authorities around the world with slowing the spread of COVID-19.


On the Apple side, the API is available in the iOS 13.5 software update released today. Apple said that several U.S. states and 22 countries around the world have requested and received access to the API to date, with more expected to join in the coming weeks. A few of the committed states so far include Alabama, South Carolina, and North Dakota.

Apple and Google have consulted with a number of public health authorities on the API, including the CDC, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the Public Health Informatics Institute of the Taskforce for Global Health.

Apple and Google said that the API is intended to supplement rather than substitute for traditional contact tracing. In a statement, the companies said that the API is designed to make contact tracing apps work better:
One of the most effective techniques that public health officials have used during outbreaks is called contact tracing. Through this approach, public health officials contact, test, treat and advise people who may have been exposed to an affected person. One new element of contact tracing is Exposure Notifications: using privacy-preserving digital technology to tell someone they may have been exposed to the virus. Exposure Notification has the specific goal of rapid notification, which is especially important to slowing the spread of the disease with a virus that can be spread asymptomatically.

To help, Apple and Google cooperated to build Exposure Notifications technology that will enable apps created by public health agencies to work more accurately, reliably and effectively across both Android phones and iPhones. Over the last several weeks, our two companies have worked together, reaching out to public health officials scientists, privacy groups and government leaders all over the world to get their input and guidance.

Starting today, our Exposure Notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. What we’ve built is not an app — rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.

Today, this technology is in the hands of public health agencies across the world who will take the lead and we will continue to support their efforts.
Governor Doug Burgum, North Dakota:
North Dakota is excited to be among the first states in the nation to utilize the exposure notification technology built by Apple and Google to help keep our citizens safe. The CARE19 Exposure app will help us improve contact tracing and continue our ND Smart Restart by notifying people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, reaching the greatest number of people in a way that protects their privacy. As we respond to this unprecedented public health emergency, we invite other states to join us in leveraging smartphone technologies to strengthen existing contact tracing efforts, which are critical to getting communities and economies back up and running.
Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama State Health Officer:
The State of Alabama's priority as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic together is the health and safety of its citizens as well as their privacy. In partnership with Apple and Google, the Alabama Department of Public Health, University of Alabama System, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, we are harnessing technology to accelerate exposure notification to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that we can all be safe together.
Leslie A. Lenert, MD, Assistant Provost for Data Science and Informatics and Chief Research Information Officer, Medical University of South Carolina:
The Department of Health and Environment Concerns (DHEC) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) are building the SC-Safer-Together COVID-19 risk management app, which is designed to let people know anonymously that they may have been exposed to the virus and giving them the option to connect with public health officials. Built to tough medical privacy protection standards by health care providers, the SC Safer Together app, using the Apple-Google system, protects users’ privacy and will help South Carolina safely get back to work. MUSC is also proud to be working with Clemson University and the University of California San Diego on smart and private extensions that will further enhance the app’s capabilities.
To learn how the API works, read our Exposure Notification guide.


This article, "Apple and Google Launch COVID-19 Exposure Notification API, Over 20 Countries Have Requested and Received Access" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Utah Rejects Apple’s Exposure Notification API for Less Private Approach That Collects GPS Data

Utah in April released "Healthy Together," a contact tracing app aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus by letting people know if they've come in contact with someone who is later diagnosed with the virus.


Utah's Healthy Together app does not use Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API, instead opting for a less private GPS and Bluetooth-based solution that's currently available in a beta capacity. Healthy Together was created by social media startup Twenty, and it does not take advantage of the decentralized, anonymized approach that Apple and Google are implementing, according to a report from CNBC.

The aim of the Healthy Together app is to help the 1,200 Utah Department of Health workers who are doing in-person contact tracing through phone calls. Utah's health department has access to the name, telephone number, and location data of people who test positive for COVID-19 and opt to share their data.

The app uses Bluetooth and GPS to determine when smartphone users come into contact with one another, and if someone tests positive, they can share their location history and contact history over the past 14 days with a contact tracer. Twenty believes that this can cut hour-long phone calls used for contact tracing down to 16 minutes. From Twenty chief strategy officer Jared Allgood:
"Jeff and Sarah are two individuals in this example who don't know each other but they both have the app on their phones. And so the both phones are emitting Bluetooth and GPS signals. Through that data we can identify whether or not two people have spent some time together."

"If Public Health is calling somebody who has the application on their phone, and they've granted permission to see this minimum set of data to do the contact tracing effort, now, instead of spending an hour, you know, interviewing Jeff and trying to fill in the gaps in his memory, they together can step through his list of location history."
Apple and Google's privacy-focused solution does not allow personal information to be provided to public health departments, and it does not involve location-based data collection, unlike Utah's Healthy Together app. Twenty's founders claim that the Healthy Together app is opt-in and users can choose to limit permissions like GPS or Bluetooth if they don't want their location tracked, but it's not clear how this impacts the effectiveness of the contact tracing design as implemented in Utah.


According to the Utah state website, Utah opted out of Google and Apple's solution because Bluetooth alone "gives a less accurate picture" than Bluetooth and GPS location data.
The goal of Healthy Together is to allow public health officials to understand how the disease spreads through the vector of people and places, and both location and bluetooth data are needed to accomplish that.

Bluetooth helps us understand person-to-person transmission, while location/GPS data helps us understand transmission zones -- having both of these important data points provides a more effective picture of how COVID-19 spreads. This data helps policy makers make the best possible decisions about how and where we begin to relax and modify restrictions as our community and economy begin to reactivate.
One of the benefits of the Apple/Google API is background Bluetooth tracking that does not require an app to implement battery draining features or require users to keep it open for smartphone to smartphone communication to be effective. Utah will not have the benefit of the API by opting for an outside solution, which could also impact the effectiveness of the app.

45,000 people have signed up for Utah's contact tracing app, which is about two percent of the state's population. Some estimates have indicated that to be effective, contact tracing apps need to be downloaded by 60 percent of a population.

Apple and Google have said that they're aiming to release the ‌Exposure Notification‌ API in mid-May, so we could see it as early as this week after the release of iOS 13.5. Following the release of the update, the first apps that use the API will be able to be released.
This article, "Utah Rejects Apple's Exposure Notification API for Less Private Approach That Collects GPS Data" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple’s Exposure Notification System: Everything You Need to Know

Apple in the iOS 13.5 beta introduced an exposure notification API, which will let apps from public health authorities and governments worldwide help people figure out if they've been exposed to COVID-19, and if so, what steps to take next to minimize the spread of the virus.


Exposure Notification Explained


Exposure notification started out as contact tracing, an Apple-Google initiative that was announced in early April to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Apple and Google created an API that is designed to allow iPhones and Android smartphones to interface with one another for contact tracing purposes, so if and when you happen to be nearby someone who is later diagnosed with COVID-19, you can get a notification and take the appropriate steps to self isolate and get medical help if necessary.

Determining whether you've come into contact with someone relies on your iPhone, which, using the exposure notification API, interacts with other iPhones and Android smartphones over Bluetooth whenever you're around someone else who also owns a smartphone, exchanging anonymous identifiers.

Apple and Google are developing the underlying APIs and Bluetooth functionality, but they are not developing the apps that will use those APIs. Instead, the technology will be incorporated into apps designed by public health authorities worldwide, which will be able to use the tracking information to send notifications on exposure and follow up with recommended next steps.

The APIs have been created with privacy and security in mind, and app usage is opt in rather than mandatory.

How Exposure Notification Works


Almost everyone has a smartphone, which makes them ideal for determining who you've come in contact with. Exposure notification has a self-explanatory name, and in a nutshell, the feature is designed to send you a notification if you've been in proximity to a person who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Here's a detailed, step-by-step walkthrough on how it works:

  1. Two people, Ryan and Eric, are both at the same grocery store shopping for food on a Tuesday afternoon. Eric has an ‌iPhone‌ and Ryan has an Android phone, both with a health app that uses the exposure tracking API.

  2. There's a long line, so Eric and Ryan are standing in the checkout line together for approximately 10 minutes. During this time, each of their phones is transmitting entirely anonymous identifier beacons, and picking up the identifier beacons transmitted by the other person. Their phones know they've been in contact and store that information on the device itself, transmitting it nowhere else.

  3. A week later, Ryan comes down with COVID-19 symptoms, sees a doctor, and is diagnosed with COVID-19. He opens up his health app, verifies his diagnosis using documentation from a healthcare provider, and taps a button that uploads his identifier beacon to a centralized cloud server.

  4. Later that day, Eric's health app downloads a list of all recent beacons from people that have contracted COVID-19. Eric then receives a notification that he was in contact with someone that has COVID-19 because of his interaction with Ryan at the grocery store.

  5. Eric does not know it was Ryan who has COVID-19 because no personally identifiable information was collected, but Eric knows he was exposed to COVID-19 for 10 minutes on Tuesday, and that he was standing close to the person who exposed him based on the Bluetooth signal strength between their two phones.

  6. Eric follows the health app's steps on what to do after COVID-19 exposure.

  7. If Eric later comes down with COVID-19, he follows the same steps listed above to alert people he's been in contact with, allowing everyone to better monitor for potential exposure.


Apple and Google also created a handy graphic that explains the process, which we've included below:




What You Need to Do to Use Exposure Notification


Apps that use Apple's exposure notification API will be available when Apple releases iOS 13.5, a beta update that has the API to allow public health authorities to begin incorporating the API into their COVID-19 apps.

Exposure Notification is a feature that's on by default in the iOS 13.5 beta, and it may be enabled automatically when the update is released, but actually using the API requires you to download an app from a verified health authority. Many countries are developing country-specific apps that you will be able to download.

At the current time, there are no apps that use Apple's API available, but once these apps are released, you will need to download one and consent to using it before Exposure Notification becomes functional on your smartphone.

Without an app that you explicitly download and opt in to using, the Exposure Notification API on the ‌iPhone‌ doesn't do anything at this time.

Cross-Platform App Communication


Apple and Google have both worked to create APIs for exposure notifications that work together so ‌iPhone‌ and Android smartphones can interface with one another and you'll receive notifications if exposure happens even if the person you've been in contact with has an Android smartphone.

Exposure Notification Opt-In


In the iOS 13.5 beta, Exposure Notification is a privacy setting that is on by default, but using the feature is still opt-in rather than opt-out because you need to download an app and consent to sign up for the exposure notification system.

If you do, at some point, get COVID-19, there's a separate consent process for anonymously alerting people that you've been in contact with. The app needs express consent to inform others of the diagnosis, and nothing happens automatically.

Image via Guilherme Rambo

Exposure Notifications can be turned off in the Privacy section of the Settings app. As you can see in the demo screenshot below, users will need to tap "Allow" after installing an app to allow the app to collect and share random IDs with nearby devices.

Disabling Exposure Notification


You can disable Exposure Notification entirely by following the steps in our how to, and there will also be options to toggle off the feature on a per-app basis if multiple apps that use the API are installed. Apps that you have installed that use the API will be listed in the Privacy settings on your ‌iPhone‌.

Image via Guilherme Rambo


Exposure Notification Verification


When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, before an alert is sent out to the people they've been in contact with, the apps that are using Apple and Google's exposure notification APIs will require verification that a person has tested positive for the disease.

This will prevent people from using the system maliciously to trick others into believing exposure has happened when it has not.

As an example, a person who tests positive for COVID-19 might receive a QR code with their test results, which could be scanned into an exposure notification app for verification purposes. The verification process will vary by region, according to Apple.

How Exposure Notifications Will Work


As explained above, with a health app that uses the exposure notification API installed, your smartphone exchanges anonymous identifiers with each person you come in contact with that also has an app that uses the API.

Your phone keeps a list of these identifiers on it, and this list remains on your device - it is not uploaded anywhere. The exception is if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 and then follow the steps to send out notifications to the smartphones that have been in contact with yours.

In this situation, the list of random identifiers that your ‌iPhone‌ has been assigned over the course of the previous 14 days will be sent to a centralized server. Other people's iPhones check this server and download that list, checking it against the identifiers stored on their own iPhones. If there's a match, they receive a notification about exposure with more information about the steps to take next.

Matches are made on device rather than on a server in a central location, which preserves privacy while also making sure people know about possible exposure.

For a more simple explanation, here's a step-by-step walkthrough on how it works:

  1. Ryan and Eric interact at the grocery store. During this interaction, Ryan's Android phone has a random identifier number, 12486, which is unique to Ryan's phone (and which changes every 15 minutes).

  2. Eric's ‌iPhone‌ records Ryan's random identifier number, 12486, and sends Ryan his own random identifier, 34875. Both Ryan and Eric are in contact with a dozen people at the grocery store, so their smartphones download random identifiers from all of these phones.

  3. Ryan contracts COVID-19, confirms his diagnosis in the app, and consents to upload all of the identifiers his phone has used for the last two weeks (including 12486) to a central server accessible by Eric's COVID-19 app. At this point, Ryan's identifier is shared with a central database, but these random identifier numbers are not associated with any personal information and don't include location data.

  4. Eric's phone downloads the list of identifiers of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, which includes Ryan's identifier, 12486, and compares it against the list of identifiers that have been stored based on Eric's interactions.

  5. A match is made, so Eric receives a notification that he has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and he receives info on what steps to take next.


Health apps will have access to information that includes the amount of time that Eric and Ryan's phone were in contact and the distance between them, as determined by Bluetooth signal strength, which can be used to estimate distance.

Based on this information, the app can deliver tailored notifications to Eric, perhaps letting him know his exposure level and potential danger based on those factors. Eric will know the day he was exposed, how long the exposure lasted, and the Bluetooth signal strength of that contact. No other information is shared.

When Data is Shared


For the most part, the exposure notification system runs on your device. Identifiers are collected and matched entirely on your smartphone and are not shared with a central system. There are two exceptions to this:

  1. When a user is diagnosed with COVID-19 and chooses to report that positive diagnosis to the contact tracing app, the most recent identifier beacons (from the last 14 days) will be added to the positive diagnosis list shared by a public health authority to allow others who came in contact with that identifier to be alerted.

  2. When a user is notified through their app that they've come into contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, the day the contact occurred, how long it lasted, and the Bluetooth signal strength of that contact will be shared.



Exposure Notification Privacy Details


First and foremost, full privacy details on exposure notification are available on Apple's website, but we'll cover some important frequently asked questions about privacy below.

  • No identifying info - Your name, Apple ID, and other information are never shared in or associated with apps that use the exposure tracking API.

  • No location data - The app does not collect, use, or share location data. Exposure notification isn't for tracking where people are, but for determining whether a person has been around another person.

  • Random identifiers - Your ‌iPhone‌ is assigned a random, rotating identifier (a string of numbers) that is transmitted using Bluetooth to other nearby devices. Identifiers change every 10 to 20 minutes.

  • On-device operation - Identifiers that your phone comes into contact with, or phones that come into contact with your identifier, are stored on device and are not uploaded anywhere without consent.

  • Consent-based sharing - If you do test positive for COVID-19, the people you have been in contact with will not receive an alert without express permission.

  • On-device identifier matching - If you contract COVID-19 and consent to share that information, the list of identifiers you have come into contact with will be uploaded to a central server that other devices can check to identify a match on their iPhones.

  • Opt-in - Exposure notification is entirely opt-in. You do not need to use the feature, and it does not work unless you download an app that uses the API. It also does not work if you turn off the Exposure Notifications option in the Settings app.

  • Data sharing with Apple/Google - Apple and Google will not receive identifying information about the users, location data, or any other devices the user has been in proximity of.

  • Data monetization - Apple and Google will not monetize the exposure notification project.

  • Verified health apps only - Apple's APIs will only be able to be used by verified public health apps from public health authorities around the world. Apps must meet specific criteria around privacy, security, and data control. Apps will be able to access a list of beacons provided by users confirmed as positive for COVID-19 who have opted in to sharing them, but no personally identifiable information is included.

  • Disabling exposure notification - Apple and Google can disabled the exposure notification system on a regional basis when it is no longer needed.



Apps That Use the Exposure Notification API


Right now, there are no apps that use the Exposure Notification API because it's not publicly released yet. Apple plans to release iOS 13.5 with exposure notification support in mid-May, and at that point, we'll see the first apps that use it and will list them here.

The Future of Exposure Notification


Apple and Google are releasing an API for apps to use in May, but eventually, later in the year, exposure notification will be introduced at the operating system level to ensure a broader adoption, which is necessary for contact tracing to succeed in cutting down on the spread of COVID-19.

When the feature is built into the operating system, it will continue to work the way it does with an app right now, but no app will need to be installed for identifier information to be exchanged.

More Information


Apple and Google both have dedicated websites with more information about exposure notification, and that should be your first stop if you want to know more about it and how it works.

Guide Feedback


Have a question about the exposure notification system, know of something we left out, or want to offer feedback? Send us an email here.
This article, "Apple's Exposure Notification System: Everything You Need to Know" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

How to Opt Out of COVID-19 Exposure Notifications in iOS 13.5

Apple in iOS 13.5 is introducing an exposure notification API designed to allow apps created by public health authorities worldwide to notify people who come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 about their exposure to the virus.


Apple's Exposure Notification feature is privacy focused and shares no personally identifiable information or location data with the public health authorities creating the apps, but some users may want to opt out of the feature, which is enabled by default when upgrading to iOS 13.5.

Apple in the iOS 13.5 update added a toggle to disable COVID-19 Exposure Notifications for those who do not want to participate and do not want to be notified should they come into contact with someone who has COVID-19. Here's how to get to it:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Scroll down and tap on Privacy.

  3. Tap on Health.

  4. Tap on COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.

  5. Tap the toggle to turn the feature off.


The purpose of the exposure notification system is to limit the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible by informing people who have been exposed so they can self-isolate and get recommendations from their local health authorities. Because it works by allowing two smartphones to interface with one another using random identifier beacons and Bluetooth, it works best when most people have it turned on.

Re-enabling Exposure Notifications can be done by following the steps above and tapping the toggle to turn the feature back on. If the toggle is green, it's on, and if the toggle is gray, it's off.

iOS 13.5 is available in a beta capacity at the current time, and there won't be apps that take advantage of Exposure Notifications until the update is released. Receiving Exposure Notifications also requires downloading an app from a public health organization that uses the API and agreeing to its terms and conditions. Simply having the toggle turned on won't do anything without the app.
Related Roundups: iOS 13, iPadOS

This article, "How to Opt Out of COVID-19 Exposure Notifications in iOS 13.5" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums