How the Apple-Google Exposure Notification Project Came Together

Christina Farr, reporting for CNBC:

In mid-March, with Covid-19 spreading to almost every country in the world, a small team at Apple started brainstorming how they could help. They knew that smartphones would be key to the global coronavirus response, particularly as countries started relaxing their shelter-in-place orders. To prepare for that, governments and private companies were building so-called “contact tracing” apps to monitor citizens’ movements and determine whether they might have come into contact with someone infected with the virus.

Within a few weeks, the Apple project — code-named “Bubble” — had dozens of employees working on it with executive-level support from two sponsors: Craig Federighi, a senior vice president of software engineering, and Jeff Williams, the company’s chief operating officer and de-facto head of healthcare. By the end of the month, Google had officially come on board, and about a week later, the companies’ two CEOs Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai met virtually to give their final vote of approval to the project.

Not a ton of internal details, but fascinating nonetheless. I don’t see why anyone is expressing surprise over Apple and Google collaborating on this, though. Of course they are. There are dozens of reasons for informed people to be cynical about both Apple and Google. But there’s really no reason at all to be cynical about this effort. Both companies are showing their work. We can verify from their published specs not only that these new exposure notification APIs are not intended for any sort of nefarious purposes, but that they can’t be.

Sometimes the simple explanation is the truth: Apple and Google are trying to do the best they can to help. That means working fast, working together, and designing a system that protects users’ privacy and engenders trust.

Thursday, 30 April 2020