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Opinion
Alex Webb

Apple and Google Have a Trustworthy Pandemic Solution

The contact-tracing technology offered by Silicon Valley seems less troubling than the centralized digital efforts of some governments.

Who holds the data?

Who holds the data?

Photographer: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP

It’s confusing, I get it. For the past four years, the message has been: “Don’t trust Big Tech with your data!” Now, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google are offering a tool to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic that needs you to surrender more information to your smartphone. It’s sensitive information too. They want to know whether you’ve had the virus or have been exposed to it.

The two tech giants have announced a contact-tracing tool for their smartphone operating systems, which will be available to public health authorities everywhere. It’s no panacea, but if deployed effectively it could be crucial in tackling the outbreak. Perhaps counterintuitively, the Silicon Valley approach would protect privacy better than many government efforts. It doesn’t share any data with the authorities that they don’t have already — namely, who has tested positive for the virus.