COVID Tracing Now Built into Mac, Android

John Lister's picture

Apple and Google have added a way to notify users about potential COVID-19 infections without them having to install an app. The Bluetooth-based system is coming to iOS and Android but will be opt-in only.

Both companies have already built technologies that use Bluetooth to anonymously track which handsets have been in close proximity of a user who reports either symptoms or a positive test. However, until now the technologies have only been used through official government or health authority apps.

Now the mobile operating systems are getting a built-in tool called Exposure Notifications Express. It will still only be available for use by public health authorities, but will mean those bodies have a way to send notifications to potentially exposed people without developing an app. The idea is to make it quicker and easier to get an automated tracing program in place. (Source:

Opt-In System

The feature is in the newly released iOS 13.7 and will come to Android in an update this month. It's disabled by default and users will have to opt in both to activating the feature and to the relevant data sharing. Health authorities will be able to send a general notification encouraging people to opt in.

Unlike some apps, Exposure Notifications Express is only designed for cases where somebody tests positive, rather than simply developing symptoms. If the person who tests positive has opted in to the system, health authorities will use a simple but secure verification process to confirm they own and use their specific handset.

Names And Numbers Kept Secret

The system will then add the handset to the database and then send an alert to every opted-in handset that has recently been in close enough proximity for a long enough period to suggest a risk of exposure (or potentially have passed on the infection to the person who tested positive).

As is the case with apps using Apple and Google's system, neither users nor health authorities will be able to see details of which people (or how many) get an alert related to the original positive test. Neither will the people who get the alert be able to see who "triggered" it. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you opt in to this feature? Will it help in places where health authorities haven't developed an app? Who do you trust more with location and health data: tech firms or government agencies?

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Dennis Faas's picture

This seems like a nice idea and a smart way to 'make things safer', but at the same time it also appears to be a fantastic way for the governments or even malware authors to track your every move.

ronangel1's picture

Not for me thank you.I always have bluetooth and gps on my phone turned off unless in use,for this reason and takes extra power.