Several state governments may soon send residents an alert asking them to turn on “exposure notifications.”
On Tuesday, Apple and Google said they would make it easier for states to use their new technology that can notify people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by detecting phones that come close to one another.
States that sign on will be able to send a notice directly to smartphones asking people to opt in to the technology. Previous versions of the technology had required people to seek out a state health agency’s app.
The new approach could spur the popularity of such virus-alert technology in the United States by significantly lowering the hurdles for its use. Three states, Maryland, Virginia and Nevada, and Washington, D.C., already plan to use the new system, Apple and Google said, and about 25 other states were exploring using the earlier app version.
In April, Apple and Google announced they were developing the technology, which uses Bluetooth signals to enable iPhones and Android devices to detect nearby phones. If someone using the technology tests positive for the virus, they can enter the positive result into the system using a unique authentication code. An automatic notification would then go to other phones that had opted in and had been in close contact.
As the pandemic took hold this spring, countries around the world raced to deploy virus apps to help track and quarantine people. But some of the apps were mandatory and invasive, sending users’ locations and health details to their governments. Many apps were also rife with security flaws.