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Apple and Google make COVID-19 exposure notifications available without an app
- Apple and Google have introduced Exposure Notifications Express, which alerts you to possible COVID-19 without an app in some cases.
- It’ll be built into iOS 13.7, while Google will make apps to use the new framework.
- Existing notification apps will continue to work.
Apple and Google are making it easier to get COVID-19 exposure notifications on your phone — in some cases, without requiring an app. They’re introducing an Exposure Notifications Express system that makes it easier for public health authorities to notify Android and iOS users if they’ve been close to infected people for extended periods.
Health organizations no longer need to write and run their own apps. They now just have to supply Apple and Google with contact information, criteria for alerting users to exposure, and the information to present if there’s a notification. Apple and Google will run the Exposure Notification System themselves.
The seamlessness of the experience will depend on your platform. On the iPhone, an impending iOS 13.7 update will let you know if notifications are available in your area. Tap it and you’ll have the option to turn on notifications without needing an app. You’ll get a similar brief if you’re on Android, but you’ll still need an app at the moment — Google will simply generate the app on the public health unit’s behalf.
The Android and iOS systems will still talk to each other, and existing exposure notification apps will continue to work and receive full support. The companies are promising the same anonymized approach that should protect both privacy and security.
Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington, DC will be the first states in the US to use Exposure Notifications Express. It could come to other states this fall, although it depends on their governments choosing to adopt the system. International details weren’t available.
This could significantly improve adoption of exposure notifications by eliminating some of the barriers to enabling alerts. You won’t have to wait for your government to develop an app. That, in turn, could be crucial to keeping COVID-19 in check — these systems are only truly effective when large portions of the population volunteer to use them, whether on their phones or through wearables.
There’s no guarantee this will be enough by itself. It still requires consent, and some are still concerned about privacy or effectiveness, even if they’re sometimes unfounded. It could be difficult to convince skeptics that ENE won’t track their locations, for example. Still, it’s an important move that could overcome some of the hesitation that has limited use so far.