Apple and Google are launching the Exposure Notification application programming interface (API) that will enable apps created by public health agencies to work more effectively in contact tracing of COVID-19.

“What we’ve built is not an app—rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install,” Google said in a blog post. “Our technology is designed to make these apps work better.”

Exposure Notifications will use privacy-preserving digital technology, according to the company. Each user can decide to opt into the notifications or not and the system doesn’t collect or use location data from devices. Additionally, it is up to the person to report their COVID-19 diagnosis in a public health app should they contract the virus.

“User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps,” Google said.

The partnership on the Exposure Notification API began in early April, while indicating May as the month to produce this API. In the coming months, the next step for Google and Apple, they say, is to “enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform.” This solution will provide interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and be a more robust solution than an API.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.