Today Apple released iOS 13.5. I can’t help but think of this as the pandemic release with several Covid-19 related changes and features:
If the phone detects you are wearing a face mask, it will go straight to passcode entry.
FaceTime now has the option to turn off those floating panels. How much you want to bet there where a bunch of Apple Executives working from home in the last two months saying, “what the hell is this?”
It’s also now easier to share your data with emergency services.
The Exposure Notification API
I’ve written a lot over the years about government intrusion on user privacy and my general preference that we be allowed to keep our device information private. So when I first heard about this feature, I was skeptical.
Since then, I’ve read the Apple/Google documentation and studied this new feature in greater detail. I’ve also watched the mounting global death toll as a result of this horrible disease.
I fully support the exposure notification API.
Apple and Google created this collaboratively. Because the companies have such different views on user data, I think this was a good thing.
As implemented, your phone will act as a Bluetooth beacon and generate a random identifier. It will then keep a list of other random identifiers you’ve come in contact with. If, for example, you ride up an elevator with a group of other iPhone and Android devices, the anonymous data will keep track of that. If a healthcare professional determines one of those devices was attached to a human that later is diagnosed with Covid-19, you’ll get a notification that you’ve been exposed and advised of the next steps.
There is no geo-tracking. It’s just a list of what random numbers saw what other random numbers. I think it’s a smart API that helps us deal with a massive health crisis and protects user privacy at the same time.
There are already too many people dead. Count me in.