Did Apple or Google install a COVID-19 tracking app on your phone?

Tracking COVID-19 by phone

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - There's been a lot of social media buzz surrounding a feature of the latest operating system for Android and iPhone.

Some posts say, Apple and Google installed a COVID-19 tracking app on our phones. We found out - that’s not exactly true.

Some cities, counties, and schools are using what they call “exposure apps.” The University of Arizona has one in the testing stages now, and the tech is being used in Europe. The idea is to “connect the dots” from areas of COVID concentration, and alert you if you were nearby.

But you didn’t unknowingly install this kind of app the last time you updated your software. What’s on your phone now is an interface that will allow you to use an app from the health department, should you choose to install one, when and if one becomes available.

”A lot of people have been saying, ‘The app’s on your phone now,’ said tech expert Andy Taylor. “It’s not. Tracking, depending on what (apps) you have, yes - that has always been there. But tracking, specific to COVID-19, that’s not something we’re seeing as of yet.”

This tool won't work unless you enable it - and you can't do that unless your city or county has an app that can send beacons to your phone.

“If you want to see where this feature lives in your phone, go to “settings,” then click “Privacy,” then “health,” then you’ll see “COVID-19 notifications.” But again, you couldn’t enable it now, even if you wanted to - because only three states are currently close to adopting COVID-19 tracking apps, and Arizona isn’t one of them.”

If that changes - you would still have to choose to install it.

”Everybody’s different when it comes to privacy - and it’s not going to be mandatory,” Taylor said. “You can decide what you want to install, what you want to give up.”

What he means by “give up,” is that, with any app, you probably are giving up some kind of information - so always be careful before hitting “install.” Taylor told us there’s no credible COVID-19 tracing app available right now.

”Read the fine print with any app you’re installing, and what information you’re giving up,” said Taylor.

KOLD News 13 will report it when and if our local or state health departments make an app available.

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