On Friday, April 10, 2020, Apple and Google unveiled a partnership to use technology to trace the expansion of the Wuhan Virus pandemic.
The otherwise rival companies are joining forces in the next few weeks to develop new tools that would allow people and health authorities to track the virus using Bluetooth proximity data from their smartphones.
“We hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life,” the two companies declared in a joint statement.
“Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders,” they added in their statement.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said his office discussed with Apple on April 10 about the surveillance technology and is integrating it into the state’s plans to transition out of the statewide stay-at-home order.
Google and Apple claim that their work would be rolled out in two stages. In the first stage, which is in the next month, they plan to release a set of tools known as application programming interfaces (APIs). The APIs were created so that public health authorities could work on both iPhones and on phones that use Google’s Android operating system.
In the second stage in the upcoming months, the two companies intend on building a voluntary tracing system directly into their iOS and Android operating systems.
“This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities,” the companies noted.
Privacy advocates have expressed concerns about “contact tracing” smartphone apps and how they could become a part of a permanent surveillance structure.
Apple and Google reassured that the tracing would not be used for long-term surveillance projects.
Given Big Tech’s growing influence, there is reason to be skeptical of this new alliance.
Big Tech is simply the privatized arm of the surveillance state.
The Wuhan Virus pandemic offers the perfect opportunity for these tech companies to expand.
Civil libertarians should remain vigilant in the next few months as many of these companies offer up their services to implement surveillance functions.