California Set to Launch Apple and Google-Powered Contact Tracing App

California Set to Launch Apple and Google-Powered Contact Tracing App
Photo: Drew Angerer / Staff, Getty Images
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California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the Golden State would become the 18th to launch an official Covid-19 contact tracing app powered by technology pioneered by Apple and Google.

Beginning on Thursday, Californians will be able to log in to CA Notify, a secure app that uses contact tracing API to alert users via push notification when others nearby have tested positive for the virus.

Once a user pushes a button to label themselves “positive,” the secure app is able to exchange a private key with other devices within Bluetooth range. If a device detects that a user has come within range of someone with a positive diagnosis, the app will alert that user to the potential exposure — without giving any identifying details about who triggered the alert — and urge the individual to get tested and self-quarantine.

The app’s rollout comes after a month of testing on university campuses across the state, and nearly eight months after Apple and Google announced the proprietary technology back in April. In the wake of the announcement, Apple CEO Tim Cook heralded the app’s capabilities as a game changer for California, the largest state yet to adopt the technology.

“As we work together to fight the rise in cases in California, exposure notifications will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and put our neighbours’ health first,” Cook said in a tweet. “Thank you @GavinNewsom & @Google for helping bring CA Notify to Californians while putting privacy at the very centre.”

While states like Virginia and Michigan were quick to adopt their own contract tracing apps, California — which is, ironically, home to both Apple and Google — has been inexplicably slower on the draw. According to an official guide on the state’s website, users who have already adopted iOS version 14.2 or later can already enable CA Notify directly in their device’s settings by clicking “turn on Exposure Notifications.”

“California is facing one of its biggest challenges yet in its fight against COVID-19,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted on Monday in response to the news. “CA Notify with the exposure notification technology we developed with Apple will be a helpful tool as we work together to slow the spread.”

California is currently experiencing its highest surge in cases since the pandemic began last spring, with over 1.3 million confirmed cases to date.