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Here’s how the new ‘COVID-19 Exposure Logging’ feature works on your phone

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you’ve updated your phone recently you may have noticed a new COVID-19 tracking feature in your settings.

Apple and Google rolled out the new contact tracing tool -- called COVID-19 Exposure Logging -- to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. You have to opt in and here’s how it works:

  • Google and Apple created something called an API. ONLY official entities with permission are able to use that API for their apps.
  • Using the apps, each phone creates an anonymous ID.
  • When people are in contact with one another for a period of time, their phones exchange anonymous IDs. No other information is exchanged. In fact, it is impossible for an app to send/receive other information because the API restricts it.
  • Phones keep a log of anonymous IDs for about two weeks. After that, they are deleted since nobody needs to know of an exposure a month ago.
  • Phones download a list of IDs from people who marked themselves COVID-19 positive. Again, it is just a list of anonymous IDs. No other information was collected.
  • Phones compare the list of positive IDs with the list of their recent contacts. If there is a match, the user is notified by the app about it and when it occurred. No location information is saved or available.

Here’s where to find the tool:

  • On Android devices go to Settings and then Google Settings.
  • On an iPhone, go to Settings and then Privacy and then Health

Again, the tool was installed turned off and users can’t turn it on unless they’ve downloaded a separate authorized app.

Those apps will be in partnership with state, local, or federal health authorities. They have not been announced yet.

According to Apple and Google, only public health authorities will have access to this technology and their apps must meet specific criteria around privacy, security and data control.


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