Google Vice President of Engineering Dave Burke provided update on the Exposure Notification System (ENS), which Google developed in partnership with Apple, as a way to help healthcare authorities complement contact tracing efforts with a connected solution that preserves privacy while alerting people to the potential impact of confirmed COVID-19 cases. In the update, Burke notes that the company expects to “see the first set of these apps in the coming weeks” in the US, which may be a tacit response to some critics who pointed out that we have seen little about real products being created with the technology launched in May.
Burke writes that 20 states and territories in the US are currently “researching” applications that use the ENS system, and that together they make up nearly half (45%) of the entire American population. He also shared the latest updates and improvements made to the exposure notification. API as well as the surrounding documentation and information that companies have shared to answer questions from government health agencies and, we hope, make their use and privacy implications more transparent.
The ENS API now supports cross-country impact notifications, which Burke says is a feature added in countries that have already launched technology-based applications. includes CanadaToday, like some European nations). It is now also better to use Bluetooth values from a wider range of devices to improve the accuracy of finding nearby devices. He also says that they have improved the reliability of both applications and debugging tools for those working on development, which should help health authorities and their development partners more easily create applications that actually use ENS.
Burke continues that feedback has been received from developers that they would like more details on how ENS works undercover, and so they have published publicly available guides that send information to health authorities on setting up a test validation server, the code revealing its fundamentals, and information about what data is actually being collected (in a de-identified manner) to enable much more transparent debugging and validation of the correct operation of the application.
Google also explains why it requires that Android the device location parameter must be enabled to use exposure notifications – even if apps built using the API are explicitly prohibited from collecting location data as well. Basically, this is a deprecated requirement that Google is removing in Android 11, which will be released soon. In the meantime, however, Burke says that even with location services disabled, no app that uses ENS will be able to see or retrieve location data.