Did you see the Twitter storm over Google and Apple uploading a contact tracing app to iOS and Android phones? The update prompted a huge amount of confusion among users.

What the tech giants rolled out is actually not an app, but rather an operating system. The operating system exists to empower developers to build apps that can notify people of exposure to the coronavirus.

“What we’ve built is not an app- rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better,” said Apple and Google in a joint statement. And by default, the tool is switched to ‘off’ when it appears on users’ phones.

Contact tracing apps themselves will not be installed by anyone besides a given phone’s owner.

Notable news about contact tracing apps:

According to public health agencies, contact tracing is critical in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Presently, contact tracing apps are in various stages of readiness and usability across the globe.

  • The UK government just trialed a basic contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight. Although the software effectively assessed distance between persons, “…the software registered about 75% of nearby Android handsets, but only 4% of iPhones,” writes the BBC. The new Google-Apple operating system could help smooth things out.
  • Germany’s contact tracing app, which relies on both Bluetooth and GPS technologies, has been downloaded more than 10 million times. Notably, the app complies with strict data privacy laws.
  • India has mandated the use of a contact tracing app for people who work in offices, for train travelers and for those who reside in high-risk areas. The app relies on GPS and Bluetooth technologies and has seen more than 100 million downloads.

Contact tracing app scams?

Contact tracing app scams are bubbling up across geographic locales. In the UK and the US, there have been widespread reports of phony calls, where nefarious individuals claim to be contact tracers. Their goal is to steal personal information.

For more information about contact tracing, read this expert interview with Tony Jarvis.