What Is Google Exposure Notifications for COVID Protection?.
Almost a year and a half ago, in March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a pandemic. Since then, there have been options. To date, there are more than 200 million cases worldwide and more than four million confirmed deaths due to the virus.
COVID-19, one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, has devastated lives and economies, causing the largest global recession since the Great Depression. While the spread of misinformation has increased tensions and reduced our collective ability to overcome the pandemic, there are several bright spots. One Ray of Sunshine is a joint effort by tech giants Apple and Google to create an Exposure Notification System for contact tracing.
Google and Apple say they have created the impact notification system “out of a shared sense of responsibility to help governments and our global community fight this pandemic through contact tracing.”
Whether you’ve been vaccinated or not, you can help protect your community. If you are an Android user, you can find and install the app for your region. IPhone users can enable exposure notifications in their device settings.
What Is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing is a public health method of finding anyone who has come into contact with a confirmed case to test or monitor that person for infection. It is an effective way to stop the spread of the disease by finding and isolating patients. For example, smallpox has been completely eradicated through careful contact tracing.
Imagine being asked to make a list of everyone you contacted yesterday. Easy, right? You know who you live with and with whom you communicate. But everything is much more complicated. Do you know the names and contact details of every person you’ve waited in line at the grocery store? How about taking public transport or going to a crowded event like a concert?
Google and Apple’s notification system is designed to notify people with whom you have contacted but whom you cannot identify directly. And this is done without compromising anyone’s privacy.
What is the Exposure Notifications System?
When you connect to a system (iPhone) or install an Exposure Notification System (Android) app, it notifies you if you have been exposed to COVID-19. This is how it works.
- A random key is generated for your device. This key will change every 10-20 minutes so that no one can use it to identify you or your location.
- Devices exchange these random keys using Bluetooth, regardless of whether you have the application open.
- Your phone will often compare the list of random keys associated with positive COVID-19 cases with the list of random keys you have contacted.
- If it finds a match, it means that you have contacted the key associated with the confirmed case. In this case, you will receive a notification with instructions on what to do from your local or state health authority.
You can see how this technology increases the likelihood that you will receive a notification if you come into contact with someone with COVID-19, even if that person is a stranger.
Your Identity and Location Will Remain Private
Google and Apple have jointly created an exposure notification system with privacy concerns.
This system only works if people use it, so the creators have an incentive to keep user information private.
Does My Area Have an App Yet?
You can check this list to see if an exposure notification system has been created in your area. Currently there are applications in 43 countries. In the US, apps are available in 25 states and regions. The list is updated every two weeks.
If you do not see an app for your region, contact the elected officials and ask for it.
What Happens If I Test Positive for COVID-19?
If you test positive for COVID-19, health authorities in your area may contact you. They will give you a code that you can use to upload your diagnosis to the exposure notification system. Your identity will remain confidential.
If other users of the Impact Alert System contact you, they will be notified. The only information they will get is how many days ago they were exposed. Again, none of your personal information will be shared with other users.
Should I Use the Exposure Notification System if Iâ€™m Vaccinated?
First, thanks for the vaccination! You have a lower risk of contracting the virus, and if you do get a breakthrough infection, you are less likely to be hospitalized or die from it.
Secondly, yes, you should use the contact notification system, even if you are vaccinated. The more people use the system, the better it works.
In addition, Dr. Rochelle Walenski, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently stated that fully vaccinated people who get a breakthrough COVID-19 infection can transmit the virus.
For all of these reasons, you should still use the Exposure Notification System, even if you are vaccinated.
Help End the COVID-19 Pandemic
We all want to return to normal life. Whether this is possible depends on our collective will and actions. In addition to vaccinations, mask wearing, and social distancing practices, you can help create another layer of protection for your community by participating in the Exposure Notification System.
What Is Google Exposure Notifications for COVID Protection?
- The program is on. You can turn off exposure notifications at any time.
- Other users cannot see your identity. Neither Google nor Apple.
- The system is not tracking your location. Instead, it uses Bluetooth to find out if two devices are close to each other. Device location data is not collected or used.
- Only legitimate public health systems can use the Exposure Notification System and must meet certain criteria regarding privacy, data use, and security.
- What Is Google Exposure Notifications for COVID Protection?