Apple has released the new iOS 13.7 update for the iPhone line-up, and among all the new updates, there is one significant change for the COVID-19 Exposure Notification system. The way the new Exposure Notifications Express system now works is that in certain parts of the world, even if you don’t have a local app for COVID contact tracing installed, the built-in system may still be able to notify you in case you have recently come in contact with someone who has been detected with the Coronavirus. This means that public health authorities will now be able to plug into this system and not have to develop their own contact tracing apps for the same. India’s Aarogya Setu is an example of a contact tracing app, and most other countries also have their own system in place. Yet, these may be expensive to maintain and may not always follow the best privacy practices.
With iOS 13.7, users can now opt-in to receive a push notification on their iPhone when their local public health authorities adopt the Exposure Notifications Express framework. Once you’ve set this up, after your local health authorities have plugged into the system, the iPhone will begin to periodically scan the Bluetooth connections log for possible exposure to someone who may have since been detected with COVID-19. The COVID-19 Exposure Notifications framework was developed by Apple and Google in what was an unprecedented partnership earlier this summer and is now available with similar feature sets on the Apple iPhone line-up as well as Android phones. It is expected that the new capabilities will also be enabled on Android in the coming days.
At this time, the first public health authorities to adopt the more powerful Exposure Notification Express system are from the states of Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington D.C. in the United States. “Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security. Existing apps using the Exposure Notification API will be compatible with Exposure Notifications Express, and we are committed to supporting public health authorities that have deployed or are building custom apps,” say Apple and Google in a statement shared with the media.
It must be noted that for the sake of privacy, users need to enable these notifications, and nothing is enabled by default. No location data of the user is shared and the Exposure Notification system for Android and iOS also does not collect or send any personal identifiers.