Fact Check: No, You Are Not Being Tracked By Apple, Google's 'Exposure Notifications System'

The Logical Indian Fact check team investigates the claim that COVID-19 sensor has been illegally inserted into phones by Apple and Google with the intention to track people.

India   |   1 July 2020 8:10 AM GMT
Writer : Aditi Chattopadhyay | Editor : Bharat Nayak | Creatives : Abhishek M
Fact Check: No, You Are Not Being Tracked By Apple, Google

A message is being circulated on Social media platforms which say that the latest COVID-19 Exposure Notification service launched by Google and Apple is actually a tracker that has been 'inserted' into every phone during 'phone disruptions earlier this week'.


The message also provides instructions, which guides users to the COVID-19 exposure notification service on their respective phones. The message has been shared extensively on Twitter. The Logical Indian also received a request to verify the claims.

What Is 'COVID-19 Exposure Notification'?

Google and Apple jointly created the Exposure Notifications System 'to help governments and our global community fight this pandemic through contact tracing'.

It is an application programming interface which provides support to contact tracing apps by public health authorities.

According to Google, this is how the system works:

(1) Once you opt-in to the notification system, the Exposure Notifications System will generate a random ID for your device. To help ensure these random IDs can't be used to identify you or your location, they change every 10-20 minutes.

(2) Your phone and the phones around you will work in the background to exchange these privacy-preserving random IDs via Bluetooth. You do not need to have the app open for this process to take place.

(3) Your phone periodically checks all the random IDs associated with positive COVID-19 cases against its own list.

(4) If there's a match, the app will notify you with further instructions from your public health authority on how to keep you and the people around you safe.

Claim:

COVID-19 sensor has been illegally inserted into phones by Apple and Google with the intention to track people.

Fact Check:

The claim is misleading. Although this is a default service, launched as part of as an Operating System update, and cannot be deleted from the phone. Users, however, have the option to turn off the service or deleted the randomly generated IDs by going to the COVID-19 notifications settings in their respective phones.

Does It Track You?

To answer this question, we must follow the trail of the service. There is now an option called "COVID-19 Exposure notification" at the top of the Google settings. Below is a picture of how the option appears on an Android Smartphone:


This does not prove that the service has already been installed on your phone. It merrily means that now you have the choice to activate it if you so wish.

Next, if you click on that option, you are directed to a screen where you are asked to install or finish setting up a 'participating app' in order to activate the service. Below is a screenshot of this:


All it means at this point is that the Application Programming Interface (API) will enable exposure notifications. It will allow a 'participating app' such as Arogya Setu, to function as when you choose to install it. Below is a screenshot of the support section of the API:


Apple And Google's Joint Statement

In a Joint Statement issued by the tech giants on May 20 clarified, "What we've built is not an app—rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use the location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app."

Therefore, COVID-19 tracking device has not been installed into your phones.

If you have any news that you believe needs to be fact-checked, please email us at factcheck@thelogicalindian.com or WhatsApp at 6364000343

Also Read: Fact Check: Is 'Livfavir' Cheaper Than Glenmark's 'Fabiflu'?

Claim Review :  COVID-19 sensor has been illegally inserted into phones by Apple and Google with the intention to track people.
Claimed By :  Social Media posts
Fact Check :  Misleading
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Contributors

Aditi Chattopadhyay

Aditi Chattopadhyay

Fact Checker

"I like to read, cook my own food and note down witty lines. Fact checking reminds of the time when I was a kid and would go hunting for whatever caught my fancy in that moment."

Bharat Nayak

Bharat Nayak

Founding Editor- Special Project

I am a passionate writer and believe in the power of the social media to bring about social change – it is the small things that each one of us add that contribute to the bigger picture.

Abhishek M

Abhishek M

Trainee Creative Producer

"Engineer by education, creative producer by profession, Photoshop interests me, travelling makes me happy, its a whole new world there every day"

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