Apple and Google’s contact tracing API is finally live

Apple and Google’s application programming interface (API) for contact tracing is now available publicly, the two companies announced today. The APIs will be rolled out through publicly available software updates, though only public health authorities (PHAs) will be able to use the APIs to build contact tracing apps.

“What we’ve built is not an app — rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app,” the two companies reiterated through a statement.

Further, Apple and Google said that 22 countries in five continents have requested and received access to the API so far and more are expected in the coming weeks. The companies also said that the API shipped today is the “first phase” of the Exposure Notification System and they aim to “develop and improve the system” by working closely with the PHAs who use the API.

The companies took feedback from PHAs during the test runs to make certain changes to the API too. It will not allow the PHAs to determine what constitutes an exposure event, determine the number of exposure events an individual has had, factor transmission risk of positive cases into their definition of an exposure event, and the data users input into apps made using this API used alongside the data that the API already provides can help PHAs contact exposed users.

The companies had earlier promised that the API would be destroyed once the pandemic is over and contact-tracing apps are no longer required.

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