Coronavirus: New Covid-19 tracing tool appears on smartphones

Coronavirus: New Covid-19 tracing tool appears on smartphones

man wearing a mask looking at the phone

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Getty Images

A Covid-19 tracking software tool has appeared in the settings of Android and iPhone phones as part of an update of their operating systems.

The “exposure notification” tool is turned off by default and is not a track app itself.

Allows an app to run in the background while still using Bluetooth.

This allows the app to measure the distance between two laptops and then notify the owner of the phone if someone close to them later tests positive for Covid-19.

In the UK there is currently no contact tracking app available.

The update created some confusion, with people questioning the new addition to their phones on social media.

“This is not a new app, but it is an additional element added to the operating systems of the phones to allow approved developers to create apps that can potentially warn of the proximity of infected individuals,” said Prof. Alan Woodward, computer scientist at Surrey University.

“Only apps approved by Google and Apple will be included in their app stores where they attempt to use this feature.”

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APPLE / GOOGLE

Caption of the image

The tools (Apple on the left, Android on the right) have appeared in the phone settings

On iPhone it is located in the settings app, via the Privacy menu and then the integrity subsection. On Android phones it is located in the Google section (services and preferences) of the settings menu.

It does not work with the famous Covid Symptom Study app, which has been downloaded more than 3m times.

A team of NHS developers had created a contact tracking app and tested it on the Isle of Wight, but the UK government is now planning to incorporate software developed by Apple and Google.

This tool is part of the collaboration between the giants of technology.

It allows phones to exchange data and warn people if they have approached someone who has found coronavirus.

However, that data is not stored anywhere centrally, which was what the UK initially wanted to do.

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