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Apple Making COVID-19 Contact Tracing Easier

The next iPhone software update could make it easier for people to opt into Apple's COVID-19 contact tracing technology, enabling all iPhone users to turn on exposure notifications without downloading a third-party app.

Apple's contact tracing technology, developed alongside Google, uses bluetooth in smartphones to notify people when they come into close contact with a person who's tested positive for COVID-19. Up until now, iPhone users could only turn on the exposure notifications if they also had a contact tracing app developed by a public health authority.

The next iPhone update, iOS 13.7, was released in beta for developers last week.


The update could help COVID-19 contact tracing technology overcome a major hurdle: in order for it to be effective, more people need to opt in. So far, only a couple of states have shown interest in developing apps that use the contact tracing tech from Apple and Google.


However, certain functions may still be limited for iPhone users who don't have a public health authority app installed. Apple notes in the update that "system availability depends on support from your local public health authority," but it's not clear exactly which functions would be limited.

Apple and Google have said they won't retain any health data, and will instead rely on government agencies to keep logs of users who test positive, meaning people may still need to download a public health authority app in order to confirm a positive case.


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