On May 20, 2020, iPhones began receiving iOS 13.5, which includes a COVID-19 exposure notification API. Despite the contact tracking being voluntary, people already fear that personal information will be misused. Here’s why you don’t have to worry.
It is disabled by default
Apple and Google, the two companies that have worked together to create the exposure notification API, be sure to put privacy first when creating the coronavirus contract tracking feature. As such, you must register to use the function, and no personal data is ever transmitted to the health authorities.
Despite this, social media is already increasingly concerned that the iOS update for iPhone will automatically start sending data to health authorities. Let’s break down the example below and see what they’re wrong with.
READ: Be careful if you have your Apple IOS on automatic update. This is the new IOS 13.5 push queued. Read carefully. It has a COVID tracking application and an exposure notification that goes to the health authorities. pic.twitter.com/6Io2tETPmi
– 🐾MilSpecOpsMonkey🐾 (@mil_ops) May 21, 2020
The first highlighted paragraph mentions the Exposure Notification API which supports COVID-19 contact tracking applications from public health authorities. So with this update, there is an API built into the firmware, but Apple hasn’t installed its own tracking app. You will need to download an official app from your local official public health agency before the exposure notification feature will work.
More, not all states in the United States plans to release a contact tracking application using the API.
Face ID and password
The second highlight concerns the face ID, your access code and the masks. With iOS 13.5, Apple introduced automatic mask detection. The only change is that if your iPhone detects that you are wearing a mask, it automatically drops you on the access code screen so that you can unlock your phone quickly.
The third highlight provides more information on the Exposure Notifications function and its API. We have a full explainer on how the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications works, but the abbreviated version is that your iPhone, if you have downloaded an official public health application and activated the function, and the phones around you which also have the API activated, send anonymous Bluetooth beacons.
Each device contains a log of the tags with which they crossed. Whenever someone is diagnosed with coronavirus, they can enter the verified case in the public health application they have installed. From there, everyone who has the infected patient’s Bluetooth beacon stored on their phone in the past 14 days will receive a notification and the next steps to get tested and treated.
At no time during this process will your personal information be passed on to public health officials, government or others with the Exposure Notification API enabled. Your Bluetooth beacon is an anonymous set of numbers and letters that is changed every 10 to 20 minutes. The feature is on your phone to notify you in case you interact with someone diagnosed with the virus so that you can take steps to seek medical care.
Finally, this publication on social networks highlighted the updates of the emergency services. The only change is the ability to automatically share health and other information with emergency services when you call 911. You don’t have to activate the feature. However, people with allergies, taking certain medications or who have a medical problem of which first responders should be aware can activate the option so that dispatchers can transmit information to paramedics and doctors.
After reading this, if you are still concerned about the exposure logging feature, you can keep it disabled and never install a public health application that uses the data. You can verify that everything remains disabled by opening the “Settings” application on your iPhone, then by going to Confidentiality> Health> COVID-19 exposure logging and verify that the function is disabled.