Users on social media are concerned that a COVID-19 track and trace app has been automatically installed by Apple and Google on users’ devices.
They are mistakenly under the impression that the contact tracing method used by Apple and Google is an application.
While there have been updates to users’ phones, these are dedicated settings related to the coronavirus rather than a new app.
These settings, on both operating systems, are used for the infrastructure of any contact-tracing app.
That infrastructure have been developed by the software giants for months.
In Android smartphones, these infrastructures (called “COVID-19 exposure notifications”) can be seen in the Settings menu, under “Google”.
Clicking that screen informs users that this infrastructure will only be used, and notifications only sent, when users have installed or “finish[ed] setting up a participating app”.
In Apple’s operating system, there settings can be found under “Privacy,” and then “Bluetooth,” informing users that “when enabled, iPhone is exchanging random IDs with other devices using Bluetooth.”
“This enables an app to notify you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19.”
In a statement from Apple and Google, published 20 May, they said: “What we’ve built is not an app – rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people instal. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better.“
While many contact-tracing apps could pose major privacy risks, there is no app of this nature that has been installed on users’ smartphones without their knowledge or consent.
Similar concerns were raised regarding the NHS Covid-19 “track and trace” app earlier this month. They are also untrue.