API is an enabling tool and needs to be embedded into an app — like Aarogya Setu to monitor location and send …Read More

NEW DELHI: Recent updates to Google’s Android and Apple iOS include a contact-tracing API (application programme interface) that allows apps to monitor your movement and warn you of Covid-19 infections around you. However, you need not worry as the API alone does not lead to monitoring of your movement. The API is just an enabling tool and needs to be embedded into an app — like Aarogya Setu, if the government collaborates — which will then monitor your location and send you alerts of any nearby infections on a Google or Apple phone.
Google and Apple are understood to have contacted the Centre for linking APIs to Aarogya Setu app, sources said, but added not much headway has been made. “Aarogya Setu has an in-built contact-tracing API and thus may not require this,” an official said. Apple and Google did not a respond to queries.
Users fear API can track movements, violate their privacy
The APIs — part of a global joint initiative by Google and Apple to enable contact tracing in order to warn about potential corona infections — were embedded in the latest updates to the operating system of the devices. Over 20 countries are using the APIs developed by Apple and Google in their contact-tracing apps.
However, some users have expressed reservations about the API as they fear that it has the potential to violate their privacy by monitoring their movements. The reservations come after a series of protests around the contact-tracing function of the Aarogya Setu app and the use of the customer data that the app fetches.
To check the presence of API, an Apple user needs to go to the settings, then go to privacy, and then health. At the top, the user can spot the ‘Covid-19 Exposure Logging’ which currently cannot be enabled in the absence of a supporting app. Similarly, on an Android-run phone (devices like those of Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, among others), one needs to go to Settings, click on google, following which one can see ‘Covid19 Exposure Notifications’.
In a global statement given out in the second week of April when they announced the initiative, Apple and Google had said the API was being developed as a “joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design”. They had emphasised that “privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.”
When checked on an Android phone, the API said, “Your phone uses Bluetooth to securely collect and share random IDs with other phones that are nearby. Random IDs are automatically deleted after 14 days.”

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