Apple and Google COVID-19 tracing collaboration

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by RickAgresta, Apr 14, 2020.

  1. RickAgresta

    RickAgresta Peanut, leader of the Peanutty Forces

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    By building contact-tracing into their operating systems, the companies could make a difference in the global pandemic response

    Last week, Apple and Google surprised us with an announcement that the companies are spinning up a system to enable widespread contact tracing in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort is barely two and a half weeks old, the companies said, and so there are many open questions about how it will work. On Monday afternoon, the companies invited us to call in and ask some questions, and I joined the group and did.

    The basic idea is that as jurisdictions flatten the curve of infection and begin to consider re-opening parts of society, they need to implement a comprehensive “test and trace” scheme. You want to test people widely and thoroughly for the disease, as this article by Umair Irfan from Monday explains. And then, as you discover new cases, you want to see who those people may have come in contact with during the time that they were infectious.

    Historically, this has been a manual process. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, some countries have turned to technological means in an effort to enable public health authorities to find more people who may have been exposed and do so more efficiently. So far, it’s not clear that tech-enabled contact tracing has been all that effective. The system relies on voluntary participation, which has generally been weak. And the Bluetooth technology on which the system depends carries with it a high potential for false positives: it’s just not powerful enough to distinguish between cases where people were in very close proximity from ones in which they were 15 or more feet away.

    My primary interest in this story — beyond the highly unusual nature of the collaboration between Apple and Google — is how effective it could be. But there are lots of other questions about how it will work that strike me as just as interesting.

    Link to the meat of the article below:

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