Apple and Google are such fierce competitors that it might come as a shock to some to learn that the giants are collaborating to create a coronavirus tracker. Then again, the virus has infected over 1.8 million people around the world of which 100,000 have died so far. You couldn’t ask for a better driving force to unite the world’s biggest technological giants.

The companies are planning to launch ‘Contact-Tracing’, a system that will alert people whenever they encounter a person infected with COVID 19.

The mechanism will be compatible with both iOS and Android devices. It is expected to deploy in the middle of May at which point Apple and Google will add the functionality to their respective operative systems.

As you have already guessed, ‘contact tracing’ cannot test for the virus in the people you meet throughout your day. Rather, it will enable iPhones and Android phones to anonymous share information with systems operated by healthy organizations, allowing Google and Apple to determine who has tested positive for coronavirus before disseminating that information to the public.

The authorities have a role to play. Whenever they log a positive COVID 19 test, that data must be added to their public health app. ‘Contact tracing’ will use that information to determine whether or not your Apple or Android device came into close proximity with another Apple or Android device whose owner tested positive for COVID 19.

Because an estimated 3 billion people have Apple and Android devices, the tech giants will soon arm a third of the world with the tools they need to track their interactions with COVID 19 patients.

Google and Apple have reiterated the fact that users have to choose to download this new technology to their phones. But the privacy issues surrounding the technology have raised concerns in some circles, specifically the fact that companies plan to use mobile devices to share sensitive health information.

Google and Apple have assured the public that the privacy of patients will remain intact. Their technology will notify users whenever they encounter a COVID 19 patient but it will not reveal the patient’s identity or even the location where the encounter happened.

Furthermore, ‘contact tracing’ will not permit Google or Apple to see any of the data being shared among users. This technology is nothing new. Other parties have shown an interest in deploying similar innovations in recent weeks. But their progress has stalled as a result of similar privacy concerns.