US-based tech companies Apple and Google had recently been collaborating on the ‘exposure notification’ API for Android and iOS devices. The API was to be integrated in various apps in countries heavily affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic so that people could stay clear of risky areas. Now, the API is being rolled out in India for the first time. The API was to be implemented in one standard health and safety-oriented app in each country. However, Indian anti-COVID app Aarogya Setu is reportedly not compatible with the ‘Exposure Notification’ API. Also Read - MobiKwik temporarily taken down from Google Play Store for promoting Aarogya Setu
Apple and Google have both developed a set of privacy protocols. Under these regulations, developers of various contact tracing apps must agree to the terms and conditions set by these companies. Most of these are related to privacy, in case the developers wish to add more functionality to the API. Also, the conditions empower individual users to explicitly opt-in to use the technology, prevent collection or use of location data from the device. Also Read - Aarogya Setu: Niti Aayog makes the contact tracing app open source along with a bug bounty program
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While the API is being rolled out to some Indian Users, the lack of support for Aarogya Setu would mean that users in India won’t really be able to make use of the API unless the nation-wide contact-tracing makes changes to implement the API. Many countries including Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and more have developed their contact tracing apps to work with the Exposure notification protocols. Also Read - Aarogya Setu: Government softens stance on contact tracing app in Lockdown 4.0
It is still not clear if Aarogya Setu will modify the app to make use of the Exposure Notification protocol. “For Google, no decision has been taken as of now. We will check what requirements are they asking and then decide accordingly whether we want to participate,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology as per a report by Indian Express.
How does the Exposure Notification API work?
Once users opt-in to use the Exposure Notification APIs, the system generates random IDs for the users which changes every 10-20 minutes. This precaution is implemented so that individual users cannot be identified or located. The user’s device then works in tandem with other phones in the vicinity and works in the background to identify contact with positive COVID-19 cases and warns users of the same.