IPhones and Android devices have constantly changing anonymous codes that ping nearby phones via Bluetooth – a process that begins once a user chooses to receive notifications.
For exposure notifications to be effective, Android users must turn on Bluetooth and download the Covid-19 notification app for their condition. On iPhones, the system is already integrated into the settings, although users should go to exposure notifications and make sure that availability alerts are turned on.
When someone is using the feature positive for Coronavirus, they obtain or obtain a PIN from a health official to access their phone. Any other phone that has been close in the past two weeks – usually within six feet or less, for at least 15 minutes – will receive an alert informing the user to quarantine and notifying the healthcare provider.
The apps assess your risk on the strength of the Bluetooth signal (how close you are to the other person) and how long you have been connected to them.
Where can you get it
At least 15 countries They participate in the Covid-19 exposure notification system.
Some states reported a flurry of signups within weeks of the program’s launch. Maryland launched its notification system on November 10, and more than 1 million people have already registered, said Charlie Geschler, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health. He described the app as “a complement to the traditional contact tracing and another toolbox tool” to combat Coronavirus infection.
“We are at a pivotal moment in this epidemic, and subscribing to this service helps keep our families and communities safe, and helps our economy function,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said in a statement.
Questions about privacy
Is information from apps anonymous? Experts say it is.
Gischlar said the apps do not collect data about users or their locations, and there is no way to link Covid diagnostics and alerts to names and identities on phones.
“The process is completely anonymous and does not collect any personally identifiable information, and addresses the privacy concerns of the earlier contact tracing apps that are more invasive.”
Previous versions that raised privacy concerns were created by third-party developers. Gischlar said the coronavirus alert technology is provided by Apple and Google, and users can opt out of using it at any time.
Alerts can reduce Covid-19 infection
The more people subscribe to the alerts, the more effective they will be. Currently, apps are only used by a small percentage of the nearly 100 million Americans who live in 15 states.
For example, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware have formed a regional alliance that uses a similar system that allows its applications to run across state boundaries, Anscombe says.
Countries face some challenges in their outreach
The alert system is designed to complement traditional contact tracing, not work alone.
But technology brings with it its own set of challenges. For starters, the notification system only works on Google and Apple phones that are under five years old, says Anscombe. Not everyone has a newer smartphone, and only a small percentage of those use the notification system.
In addition, not all states use the notification system. Many state health departments are already overwhelmed by a resurgence of the virus, Anscombe said, and some may not have the resources to develop and maintain the app.
Waters said the previous GPS-based notification system caused outrage among privacy advocates and raised doubts about contact tracing in general.
Waters said: “Countries need additional funding, which is currently stuck in Congress, to help combat disinformation and increase the adoption of this critical tool in the battle against Covid.”