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Why Apple and Google are moving away from the term ‘contact tracing’ The tech giants, working together to help stop the spread of COVID-19, are now saying their tools are for “exposure notification.”

Why Apple and Google are moving away from the term ‘contact tracing’ The tech giants, working together to help stop the spread of COVID-19, are now saying their tools are for “exposure notification.”

Apple and Google have announced updates to their coronavirus tracking tools.

Angela Lang/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Two weeks ago, Apple and Google announced a major joint project to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. Health authorities would build contact tracing apps for the tech giants’ mobile platforms, which would use signals from people’s phones to alert them if they’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. But since then, Apple and Google have been met with scrutiny and pushback over the privacy implications of such a system. Critics worry about the possibility of abuse or spying.

To assuage those fears, the two companies on Friday outlined a series of technical tweaks to better uphold privacy, but the most important change may’ve been something far simpler: Saying the tools are for “exposure notification” instead of “contact tracing.”

Apple and Google told reporters on a joint conference call that the new terminology is simply a more accurate description of the project. The shift is in a sense a rebranding effort, but it’s more than cosmetic. Ditching a term like “tracing,” which could have ominous connotations of surveillance, may go a long way in getting consumers to use the tools. Public perception of the project is especially important as tech companies contend with past privacy scandals that have cratered trust in the industry.

Contact tracing has existed since long before Apple and Google decided to get involved. The practice is time-tested in the world of public health and has been used to track the spread of infectious diseases including tuberculosis, the measles and Ebola. (For COVID-19 other big names, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are already involved in digital contact tracing efforts.) But as Google and Apple try to get billions of people across the world to sign up for the tools, the meaning of the term could get lost or misinterpreted, said Tim Bajarin, president of the research firm Creative Strategies.

“Words matter,” Bajarin said. “That term is used in the medical community but doesn’t necessarily translate to common vernacular.”

Apple and Google on Friday emphasized the importance of user trust. The two companies said they wanted people to understand that their devices weren’t being used as location trackers, but instead were playing a part in a larger public health effort. To better educate people, the companies released a list of frequently asked questions aimed at consumers. It explains the basics of the project, like how the tools work, if people can turn them off, and where the data is stored.

‘Poor record on privacy’

The tech industry is already in the doghouse over data privacy. Google is often criticized for its business model, which relies on user data collected through its search engine, maps and other services to let advertisers target specific audiences with their messages. The search giant has also been accused of being less than forthright with its location data permissions, collecting the information when people thought they’d turned the setting offPlease watch video on the link below to get a clear understanding:               https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H3YxeuvIUE

Apple has a much sturdier reputation on privacy but has also been criticized for how it treats user data. For example, last year Apple, Google and Amazon all drew blowback after they admitted they were sharing queries from their respective voice assistants with third-party contractors, to help improve their respective natural language software efforts. The companies responded to the outcry by letting people delete their voice data.

All these companies have also said over the years that they take privacy concerns seriously and that their data-related features are intended to improve the usefulness of products for consumers.

The contact tracing project has prompted scrutiny from lawmakers, as well. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, said Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook should be held personally responsible for user data collected through the tools. Hawley particularly slammed Google.

“Especially because of Google’s poor record on privacy, I fear that your project could pave the way for something much more dire,” the senator wrote in a letter to Pichai and Cook earlier this week. “If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal. Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy, such as by granting advertising companies access to the interface once the pandemic is over.”

Hawley added, “Americans are right to be skeptical of this project.”

6 ways Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat have copied each other

6 ways Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat have copied each other

There are quite a few big players in the world of social media apps and services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. But even though all these services have multiple unique features of their own, they don’t shy away from copying some features (especially the most popular ones) from their rival services and implementing them as their own. For instance, Facebook-owned Instagram has been trying to imitate Snapchat’s features for quite a few past months.

Want to know more? Here are some ways big social media platforms have copied a feature or two from their rival(s).

Facebook and Instagram had been going crazy with ‘Hearts’ for quite some time, and Twitter finally decided to join in as well. The microblogging service ditched the ‘Stars’ it used for favourites and replaced them with hearts.

Twitter’s Periscope has become really popular for its livestreaming ability. The app reportedly boasts of 10 million users who watch 40 years worth of live videos on it daily. Facebook saw the huge potential and launched its own version of livestreaming functionality for its billion-plus users.

This Week in Apps: Facebook takes on Houseparty, Fortnite comes to Google Play, contact tracing API Sarah Perez@sarahintampa / 11:16 am AST • April 25, 2020

This Week in Apps: Facebook takes on Houseparty, Fortnite comes to Google Play, contact tracing API Sarah Perez@sarahintampa / 11:16 am AST • April 25, 2020

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we’re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications, including new details about Apple and Google’s contact tracing API to be released to developers, how app makers are angling for a piece of video calling marketing and record revenue from gaming, among other things.

Headlines

Apple and Google’s contact tracing API to be released to developers next week

The first version of Apple and Google’s jointly developed, cross-platform contact tracing API will be available to developers as of next week, according to a conversation between Apple CEO Tim Cook and European Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton. Specifically, by April 28, reports said.

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