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Apple, Google ban the use of location tracking in contact tracing apps

Apple and Google have banned the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system. Last month both the companies announced to work for tracing of the novel coronavirus by people who are near virus carriers. The companies plan to allow only public health authorities to use the technology.

The reason behind this decision is privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

But the developers of coronavirus-related apps in several U.S. states told Reuters last month that it was vital that they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system in order to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots.

The Apple-Google decision to not allow GPS data collection with their contact tracing system will require public health authorities that want to access GPS location to rely on what Apple and Google have described as unstable, battery-draining workarounds.