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Google, Apple Tweak COVID-19 Exposure Notifications to be More Useful

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Friday, 2:14 PM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome

Google today provided an update on the quickly-evolving Exposure Notifications System (ENS) they developed and launched in partnership with Apple to augment pandemic contact tracing efforts. The system now supports interoperability between countries and states, including a "national key server" run by the Association of Public Health Laboratories to allow the system to work across the 20 US states and territories using ENS with their own official public health apps. Also, "Bluetooth calibration values for hundreds of devices have been updated to improve the detection of nearby devices". As always, ENS is completely anonymous, does not track your location, and is opt-in. Google also explained the technical reasons users may be asked to turn on "location services" to use ENS, even though ENS does not us location data and ENS apps are prohibited from collecting location data. At a system level, in Android 10 and earlier, permission for an app to use Bluetooth is linked to "location services" because the app may connect to Bluetooth beacons, which are intended to mark locations. But ENS apps are prohibited from gathering this data. In Android 11, ENS apps will be given an exemption that allows the location services setting to remain off, since those apps cannot collect such data.

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