Apple’s most recent update for all iOS 13-compatible devices not only includes contact tracing, but also now comes with “improved” biometrics to identify faces of users even if they’re wearing a face mask.
The update is available for the 6S and newer, as well as the 7th generation iPad touch, but will only deploy the contact tracing ability once you’ve downloaded the authorized public health app. Three U.S. states (Alabama, North Dakota, and South Dakota) have received access to the API, along with 22 countries across the world, with even more to be added in the coming weeks.
Business Insider recently reported that Google and Apple would be working in tandem with the CDC Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Association of Public Health Laboratories to bring users the “exposure notifications system”.
Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted on Wednesday, “Technology can help health officials rapidly tell someone they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Today the Exposure Notification API we created with @Google is available to help public health agencies make their COVID-19 apps effective while protecting user privacy.”
“The software will use Bluetooth to detect other smartphones in close proximity and alert the user – assuming they have a relevant health app installed – if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19,” Business Insider also reported earlier this week.
Individual states have the ability to produce their own contact tracing app with an API that can be tweaked by different health agencies to their liking. This leaves what constitutes risks associated with an “exposure event” up to the agencies themselves and can be drastically different from one agency’s guidelines to another. How and when notifications are sent to users will be up to the agencies themselves.
“iOS 13.5 speeds up access to the passcode field on devices with Face ID when you are wearing a face mask and introduces the Exposure Notification API to support COVID-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities. This update also introduces an option to control automatic prominence of video tiles on Group FaceTime calls and includes bug fixes and other improvements.
Face ID and Passcode
- Simplified unlock process for devices with Face ID when you are wearing a face mask
- Passcode field automatically presented after swiping up from the bottom of the Lock screen when you are wearing a face mask
- Also works when authenticating with the App Store, Apple Books, Apple Pay, iTunes, and other apps that support signing in with Face ID
- Exposure Notification API to support COVID-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities
- Option to control automatic prominence on Group FaceTime calls so video tiles do not change size when a participant speaks
- Option to automatically share health and other essential information from your Medical ID with emergency services when you place an emergency call (US only)
This update also includes bug fixes and other improvements.
- Fixes an issue where users may see a black screen when trying to play streaming video from some websites
- Addresses an issue in the share sheet where suggestions and actions may not load “
The Apple-Google partnership rolled out their new “Privacy-Providing Contact Tracing Update which reads as follows:
“Across the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID‑19 pandemic, to protect people and get society back up and running. Software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
As part of this partnership Google and Apple are releasing draft documentation for an Exposure Notification system in service of privacy-preserving contact tracing: Exposure Notification – Bluetooth Specification, Exposure Notification, Cryptography Specification, Exposure Notification – Framework API, Exposure Notification – Frequently Asked Questions
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.
How the software will be able to identify and sift through user-induced false positives is yet to be determined. This includes accidentally entering in the wrong information or users who purposely put in incorrect information.
Apple rolled out a COVID-19 Screening Tool in March, developed by the CDC, FEMA, and the White House that walks users through different prompts asking about symptoms and location, that then suggests options to the user depending on these variables.
Those who have potentially been exposed to the virus would receive notifications such as these:
Contact tracing can be turned off/on by following these steps provided by 9to5mac.com
- On iOS 13.5 and later, head to Settings on your iPhone
- Swipe down and tap Privacy
- Now choose Health
- Tap COVID-19 Exposure Logging at the top
- For now, you’ll need an authorized app before Exposure Notifications can be turned on. But then you can tap the toggle to turn notifications on or off
- You can also delete the exposure logs manually at any time at the bottom of the settings
- Follow along here for when apps from health authorities become available
After a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging the expansion of a contact tracing workforce was sent in April by Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Former Acting Administrator for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Andy Slavitt, among other healthcare professionals, calling for hundreds of thousands to interview and report those diagnosed with COVID-19.