Recently, tech giants Apple and Google announced a partnership that will focus on the use of Bluetooth technology to help identify potential coronavirus hotspots based on smartphone location data.
As you might imagine, those two companies have a lot of data they can work with. By pooling their resources, the hope is that they can paint a very complete picture.
A joint statement put out by the two companies reads, in part, as follows:
“Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.”
It sounds tremendously promising, but not everyone is as enthusiastic as the two companies are. A spokesperson for the ACLU questions whether the accuracy of a smartphone’s geolocation data could improve the current tracking methodologies health organizations already have access to. If they could improve, they question whether or not the information gained is worth the rather large hit to individual privacy that comes with it.
Those are fair questions, to be sure. Kudos to Apple and Google for stepping up and proposing to do something. While it may be imperfect, and even problematic, it is good to see forward thinking people attempting to come to grips with a very real problem for us all. That’s how society progresses.