First version of Apple, Google’s contact tracing API to be available for developers next week: Tim Cook

This is the first phase of the collaboration and timelines seem to have been stepped up, at least from Apple’s end

Tim Cook and European Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton speaking in Breton’s office.
Tim Cook and European Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton speaking in Breton’s office. (Twitter)

According to a conversation between Tim Cook and European Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton, the first version of Apple and Google's cross-platform contact tracing API should be available for developers by next week.

Breton tweeted a photo of himself talking to Cook from his office via a video call. He also told Les Echos that Cook has told him that the contact tracing API will be available for software developers by April 28. Developers can use the API to build apps for public health agencies once the API is released.  

Apple and Google jointly announced that they are working on a contact tracing system that will work across iOS and Android platforms on April 10. The companies also detailed how the opt-in network would use randomised IDs that are not tied to a user's actual identity information to "communicate potential contacts with individuals with a confirmed positive Covid-19 diagnosis".

Also Read: How Apple and Google's joint technology to combat Covid-19 is going to work

Apple and Google's system is supposed to be a decentralised one that does not collect any data so as individual privacy is preserved. The system will roll out in two parts. First, the API will be made available to developers. This was scheduled for a mid-May release but going by Cook and Breton's conversation, the companies have stepped up their timelines, at least Apple has.

And this makes sense since there is an urgency to better understand how and when to toughen up or relax social distancing measures.

The second part involves issuing a system update to build contact tracing at the OS level. Both on Apple and Android, opt-in would be managed on the device and this enabled will automatically be able to be a part of local contact tracing efforts whether or not they have any specific health agency app installed.

Apple and Google clarified in a Q&A session about the system that "users would still be prompted to download and install a public health app from their local authority should their phone notify them of a possible contact, so that they could get additional info about next steps from a trusted source".