More than 8.1 million people in the U.S. have turned their iPhones and Android devices into pandemic contact-tracing tools, but it hasn’t been of much use when their neighbours, classmates and coworkers aren’t on the same system.
Apple and Google co-created “exposure notification” technology to alert phone users if they spent time near someone who tests positive for the coronavirus, so they know to get tested, too.
It’s built with tight privacy restrictions to maintain users’ anonymity, but the tech companies have left it to each state’s public health authority to decide whether to use it. So far, 16 U.S. states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C., and more than 30 countries have made the exposure notification system available to their residents.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The technology relies on Bluetooth short-range radio signals to detect when two phones are in close proximity for long enough for someone to likely transmit the virus. Most states measure that close…