Apple And Google's Coronavirus Tech Won't Actually Do Contact Tracing. Here's Why Exposure Notification Is Different

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Today, Apple and Google announced that they’re pushing out their exposure notification technology — which lets states and countries build apps that alert people if they’ve been near someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

But there’s a key difference between apps that use Apple and Google’s technology, and what many public health officials say they need most. It’s the difference between exposure notification and contact tracing.

The media, including me, has been referring to Apple and Google’s project as “contact tracing.” That’s largely because Apple and Google initially described the initiative as “contact tracing” before rebranding it in late April as “exposure notification.”

This is a confusing — but very important — distinction. Exposure notifications and digital contact tracing are two different things, and choosing one or the other could change the course of the pandemic.

Exposure notification

 


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