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Could Apple & Google’s COVID-19 Tracing Tech Make COVIDSafe Better?

Apple and Google have made their COVID-19 tracing technology – which they call ‘Exposure Notifications’ technology – available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. Exposure Notifications aims to enable rapid notification in a way that preserves data privacy.

This technology promises to make apps that have been created by public entities to work more accurately, reliably and effectively across both Android smartphones and iPhones. As such, Google and Apple’s tech could help the Australian government’s COVIDSafe app overcome its many teething issues.

According to a report from The Guardian that was published yesterday, no Australian state has yet used data for contact tracing COVID-19 cases since it was released a month ago. While NSW Health has tested the data, it was not able to integrate it into existing contact-tracing methods.

Currently, for the COVIDSafe app to work on iOS, users must have an iOS10 or an iPhone 5 or above to use it.

Although the COVIDSafe app initially had significant problems on iPhones, where it only worked when the app was opened, the government released round three of the app, which improved some of these limitations.

Minister for Government Stuart Robert said: “It works across both Apple and Google platforms, and it works whether it’s in the foreground, the background, if the phone is locked or unlocked.”

Although 5.8 million Australians had downloaded the COVIDSafe app as of Monday, the privacy protections that Google and Apple are offering could entice more users to download the app. Google said: “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.”

A spokesperson from the Ministry for Government Services told ChannelNews: “The DTA and the Department of Health have been working with Apple and Google to understand and test the Exposure Notification Framework since it was released to see how it can be applied in Australia. That testing is ongoing.”

Apple and Google first began jointly working on the COVID-19 tracing technology in mid-April.

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