By Joshua Huff, sports editor
MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Department of Health will work alongside Apple and Google to begin contract tracing, Gov. Kay Ivey said during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
The department will begin to use the tech companies’ contact tracing software to track those who might have been exposed to COVID-19 using Bluetooth signals. Alabama will join North Carolina, North Dakota and South Carolina as first states in the country to join with the tech companies to trace the spread of the virus.
“Hopefully, this will become a perfect tool in the toolkit to slow the spread of coronavirus by using almost what every Alabamian has in their pocket: a cellphone,” Ivey said.
The technology will notify individuals if they were potentially exposed to COVID-19 by detecting if they had spent time around another app user who has tested positive for the virus.
As is the case with most new technology, many people are bound to have privacy concerns. In response, both Apple and Google stated in a joint announcement on Wednesday that the identity of users will be protected by encryption and anonymous identifier beacons that frequently change. They have also said that they are banning GPS tracking from the app due to privacy and accuracy concerns.
“User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps,” the companies said.
The companies added that they’re not trying to replace contact tracing, a pillar of infection control that involves trained public health workers reaching out to people who may have been exposed to an infected person. But they said their automatic “exposure notification” system can augment that process and slow the spread of COVID-19 by virus carriers who are interacting with strangers and aren’t yet showing symptoms.