Starting today, a new version of iOS is available which, as anticipated last week, introduces contact tracking for Covid-19 at the system level . iOS 13.7 is not yet available, but Apple has stated that it will reach users in the next few hours. The main novelty introduced concerns about what has been defined as “phase 2” in the implementation of contact tracing.
In fact, the first phase was achieved with the release by Apple and Google of the API Exposure Notification which essentially laid the foundations of the system, providing the necessary tools for States who wanted to create an app to track user contacts. And thus manage the spread of the coronavirus.
Today, with this release, the second phase is completed, which actually implements the tracing functions at the operating system level previously delegated to external applications. In other words, the workload required by the authorities to activate contact tracing has been greatly simplified. The new system is called “Exposure Notifications Express” and takes care of practically all the operations, leaving the management of the operations to the health bodies.
In other words, to activate a contact tracing system now you do not need to create an app to be downloaded by the population (Immune, in our case), it is sufficient for the authorities to provide a config file with name, logo, notification activation criteria, information and protocols to be shown to the user in case of exposure and the OS will do the rest. Obviously, in line with the desire to protect the privacy of users as much as possible, the system will remain disabled by default and will have to be activated manually.
To do this, after installing iOS 13.7, it will be sufficient to enable an option in the settings and accept the conditions set by the local authorities. If you want, you can also ask to be notified with a push notification when the Exposure Notifications Express is adopted in your country. In any case, all the privacy protection measures envisaged for the APIs will also remain valid for the new system: no location data is collected, the software does not share the user’s identity with anyone else, checks are carried out locally on the device, and possibly only the user can decide whether or not to report the positivity to the virus.
For States that have already created an app and for users who have installed it, nothing changes, everything can continue to work as before. The difference is that now Google and Apple have taken charge of the operation of the system and therefore it is hoped that this reduction of barriers will make it easier to adopt and spread the contact tracing system. Finally, for those who had carefully followed the developments previously, we note that Apple and Google had declared that with this phase some tasks would remain in the hands of the local authorities. Now we find that they are already taking care of all the activities and therefore no further releases will be necessary to make the function fully operational at the system level.