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No, Apple and Google Are Not Tracking Your Health

by | Aug 14, 2020 | Miscellaneous, MyTek Blog

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While it might seem like a rare occurrence, Google and Apple have teamed up to help local governments slow the spread of COVID-19. This is done with an app that can notify you if someone near you has tested positive for COVID-19. As useful as this technology might be, it’s turning heads because people have begun spreading misinformation about its use. Today, we thought we’d clear it up and talk about COVID-19 app contact tracing.

When something is updated or started, it is not uncommon that misinformation will be spread, especially on social media. We aren’t saying that all technology changes are good by any stretch, but misinformation can create some really crazy conspiracy theories about things that can be easily explained. 

Did Google or Apple Install a COVID-19 Tracking App on My Phone?

The answer is no. Apple and Google have not added an application to your phone without your consent. What they have done is create an application framework, so that app developers can create COVID-19 tracking applications of their own. Because of this, there were a ton of posts like this one, on Facebook:

“**VERY IMPORTANT ALERT!***

A COVID-19 sensor has been secretly installed into every person’s phone. Apparently, when everyone was having a “phone disruption” over the weekend, they were adding COVID-19 Tracker to our cell phones!

If you have an Android phone, go under the settings and look for Google settings and you will find it installed there.

If you are using an iPhone, go under the settings, privacy, then health. It is there but not yet functional.

The App can notify you if you’ve been near someone who has been reported having COVID-19.”

Here’s the thing about this post: almost all of the information shared here is absolutely misleading.

The update mentioned in the post is a new setting that enables the COVID-19 Exposure Notification system. To make it do anything, the user needs to install an application and activate the setting, confirming they are OK with participating.

This setting is only there to give local governments and health industry members a starting point to build COVID-19 applications.

So No, This “App” Doesn’t Track COVID-19

Without an application downloaded by YOU, your mobile device will not be tracking anything related to COVID-19. Google and Apple shared a joint public statement, saying “What we’ve built is not an app—rather public agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install.”

What Do We Know?

The applications will be built by state and local governments. Once a user opts in, their phone is assigned a random ID, which is then exchanged with other participating phones within Bluetooth range. This means that it is completely anonymous and your security is protected. Without sharing any location, identify or any other data, a participating person can report their positive COVID-19 test and those who have been around them can be notified that they may have been exposed. Even the random ID changes every 10 to 20 minutes so anonymity is protected.

“Uninstalling” the Exposure Notification

Technically, there is no application on your phone. It can’t be uninstalled because on it’s own, it isn’t doing anything. Trust us, it’s better to leave it alone, even if you will not be participating. It will do nothing if you choose not to download a tracking application. By default, it’s already deactivated. Don’t follow any instructions you might see that tell you to roll back your phone or opt out of security updates because all this can do is leave your phone vulnerable. 

To learn more about COVID-19 app contact tracing and other similar technologies, reach out to MyTek today at 623-312-2440.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Tim Tiller, LMSW

 
Tim Tiller, MSW brings a deep service background to his role at Mytek, having graduated from McDonald’s management training program, fresh out of high school, and working his way up through the ranks in the hospitality industry. He has led two prior companies – Multi-Systems Inc., an IT-focused organization providing technology to hospitality companies (where he was named President at age 36), and most recently, as Chief Operating Officer for Jewish Voice Ministries International.

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