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Mobile Monday: Apple and Google Partner to Enable COVID-19 Contact Tracing, Limit Ad Tracking Up on iOS and Down on Android

Posted Apr 12, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people across the globe, governments and health authorities are working hard to find solutions to end the pandemic. Following this lead, Apple and Google have teamed up to use their resources and expertise to develop contract tracing technology that will help prevent the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Singular has shared their data on Limit Ad Tracking which has grown immensely on iOS but has dropped on Android. Get all the details in this week’s Mobile Monday.

Apple and Google’s Joint Effort to Fight the Spread of COVID-19
Apple and Google have announced a joint effort to help governments and health agencies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This comes after public health authorities and universities around the world have been working on opt-in contact tracing technology to contain the spread of the virus. In Apple’s announcement, the company stresses that user privacy and security will be central to the design of the project. Using Bluetooth technology, smartphone users will be able to opt-in to be informed if they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19. 

In May, the two tech giants will release application programming interfaces (APIs) that apps from public health organizations can use. The APIs will enable apps to use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions to track a smartphone owner’s recent meetings with others who could be diagnosed with COVID-19. Through an app from either the App Store or Google Play, the user could be alerted that they were exposed to a diagnosed person or they could report that they have been diagnosed themselves. In later months, a second iteration of the system will be released. Users can then enable contact tracing without an installed app as the system will be built into the operating systems.

Limit Ad Tracking is Up on iOS and Down on Android
Singular has shared that Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) has increased by 216% on iPhones over the past four years in the United States. During the same time period, LAT was down on Android by 85%. Limit Ad Tracking is a feature that allows users to opt-out of having an ID for advertisers (IFDA). The user will no longer be served specific ads targeted at them because their device has no identity.

These significant changes in opposite directions are not just limited to the U.S. In the United Kingdom, almost 28% of iPhone users have LAT on, but just under 3% of Android users have turned ad personalization off.  Similarly, 23% of iPhone owners in Germany have LAT on, while only 3% of Android owners enabled the comparable setting. This trend can be seen globally as India and France have similar results. Singular expected this from the iOS side due to Apple’s focus on privacy as a competitive advantage and the California Consumer Privacy Act was enacted but the Android numbers have been surprising and will need more research to understand its reasons.

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