iOS 13.7 Integrates Apple’s COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Originally published at: iOS 13.7 Integrates Apple’s COVID-19 Exposure Notifications - TidBITS

Apple has released iOS 13.7 with a new built-in COVID-19 exposure notification system that it co-developed with Google. The company also pushed out iPadOS 13.7 with unspecified bug fixes.

Josh, is there a list somewhere else that can be checked to see if a particular state will be releasing notifications? I’d like to check “off phone” before I decide to allow myself to be tracked by my state.

There is no danger associated with checking. You must download the state app in order to activate the logging and AFAIK, Apple still won’t allow states to track individuals.


This is the screen message for Australia.
Exposure Notifications Are Not Currently Available.
Exposure notifications have not been turned on for your region by your public health authority.
The DONE button takes one back to the Settings –>Exposure Notifications.

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FWIW, Virginia is using an app called COVIDWISE for both iOS and Android.

According to the home page, here’s how it works:

  • The system generates an anonymous token for your device, which changes every 10-20 minutes
  • The app uses BLE to exchange these tokens with any other devices running the app that are within range. Discovered tokens are retained for 14 days.
  • Once per day, the app downloads a list of anonymous tokens associated with known positive cases (as reported to Virginia), comparing the list against all the anonymous tokens discovered during the last 14 days
  • If there is a match, the app tells you who to contact to know what to do next

Important points from its FAQ:

  • If you are diagnosed positive, you will get a PIN code (from Virginia) that you can use to inform the app of the diagnosis. This will let the system know that your anonymous tokens (for the day the PIN is submitted and 14 days prior) correspond to a positive diagnosis. This PIN prevents people from submitting bogus reports.
  • If you are not a Virginia resident, the app can track if you were exposed to someone where a positive diagnosis was reported to Virginia, but your own diagnoses can’t be submitted to the app without somehow sending that diagnosis to Virginia for processing. So it’s really not useful for residents of other states.
  • Tokens generated after the PIN is entered are not considered a positive diagnosis, so there is no need to “clear” the system after a sick person recovers
  • “Exposure” is based on the CDC’s definition (currently within 6’ for at least 15 minutes). Distance is approximated, based on Bluetooth signal strength.
  • The app does not track location and does not use personally identifiable information. If it detects exposure, you receive an alert that the exposure occurred, but no information about where or who exposed you.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of a central resource. You’d have to check with your state’s health department.

OK, thanks. A central resource would be better as those traveling could check and see which states or parts thereof would be tracking them.

Apple’s settings treat Ontario as part of “region” Canada, although Canada is larger than the USA and not all of the Provincial governments have adopted the Covid app. It is used where I live, so the Covid app looked redundant, so I deleted it. After it was gone, the settings showed exposure-testing to be off. I selected “region” Canada. Apple’s app sent me to the app store, to download the Covid app. In short, the feature is utterly useless here.

Exposure notification is enabled in New Zealand, through the Ministry of Health’s “NZ COVID Tracer” app.

All businesses and public places in NZ are encouraged to show a prominent QR code, which you can simply scan using the app as you arrive—it literally takes half a second.

Again, there is no tracking involved when using the iOS provided API with a state or local app. Information exchange is totally controlled by you and exposures are only placed in a log on your phone.

Read through David’s review of the Virginia app as an example. All the apps that use the API are going to perform identically to what Virginia has outlined.

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It seems that Apple building the feature into iOS doesn’t obviate the need to get a government-provided app—it’s complementary, not a replacement.

That makes sense, I think, since you would need some UI to be able to register yourself as infected, if you tested positive, and that process is going to vary by locality.

As I understood the press releases, Apple (and Google, for Android) have not developed any applications. They developed frameworks that various government agencies may use to implement tracking as required by their respective laws and medical systems.

That’s pretty close. Apple and Google developed API’s to interface with macOS that agencies may use in an application to log (not track) encounters with self-reporting infected users.

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Just ran across this site that shows which countries and US states have adopted or are in the process of implementing the Apple/Google technology.

It seems to me that the CDC should have an app using the Apple/Google protocol and it should be coordinating things in the USA.

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That would have made sense from a centralization and speed of execution approach, for sure, but for reasons we won’t get into here, many such policies have been left to the individual states.

Is anyone aware of a state implementing an exposure notification or contact tracing app that doesn’t use the Apple/Google technology?

And it would have covered the entire USA. Isn’t it true that with State-specific apps you could report a positive test in one state and residents of other states whom you have been in contact with won’t know, even if they are registered in an app in their State?

My understanding of the Apple/Google system is that it will notify anyone who has the system enabled of a positive exposure regardless of what state you’re in or which state’s app you have installed. For the system to discriminate by state, it would have to know which state you’re in when your iPhone reports your contacts, and it’s a big deal that it not collect any such identifying information.

So government entities report all positive contacts to Apple/Google and Apple/Google has a global database? It seems like it would need to be global. Imagine an asymptomatic flight attendant who is in contact with people from all over the world and then tests positive and reports it in their country.

Unfortunately, those of us who don’t live in a State with an app are left out and I’m not sure why that is.

It’s far more complicated than a central database, which is necessary for privacy reasons. Glenn explained it well in an article a while back.

But yes, it’s too bad that more states aren’t issuing the necessary apps or that the CDC didn’t at least come up with a reference app that the states could customize.