Cybersecurity expert: new Apple, Android updates do not include secret trackers

Tech expert: New smartphone updates do not include automatic trackers
Updated: Jun. 21, 2020 at 9:50 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - After seeing posts on social media claiming that Apple and Google recently installed secret trackers on people’s smartphones, a cybersecurity consultant researched it and says it is not true.

Both iPhone and Android users, who recently upgraded their smartphone’s software, may have noticed something new in settings: “COVID-19 Exposure Logging” or “COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.”

Tech expert Dave Hatter says if you thought it was a tracking app, do not fret, at least not yet.

“At the moment, I don’t think there’s anything to really be concerned about,” Hatter said.

Hatter said what people are seeing is actually an “application programming interface,” or an API.

It is the framework for a coronavirus contact tracing app.

That is an app that health agencies could create and release to help monitor the spread of COVID-19.

Hatter says it works using Bluetooth technology.

“Let’s say you and I show up at the same place - we go to Kroger,” Hatter explained. “We end up at the same bar, or whatever, right. If you have this turned on, and I have this turned on, the Bluetooth feature of your phone which generally speaking has about a 33-foot range would know because it broadcasts this beacon that you and I came into contact with one another, so if you get exposed to COVID-19, or if I get exposed to COVID-19, and we have this feature turned on, and we have an app installed that can do this, then you’d be able to say ‘Okay, I’ve tested positive’ and that would transmit that information to the local health authorities at which point they would be able to notify you that you came into contact with someone who was exposed to COVID-19.”

As of right now, Hatter says that people can opt-out, but he does suggest keeping an eye on any developments.

“At the moment, it’s entirely optional,” Hatter said. “A, you don’t have to install the updates although I would recommend you do because of the security fixes and so forth that come with them. B, you have to turn this on, and C, you have to install an app for it to be able to do anything, but that may not always be the case in the future. I think it bears watching, and it remains to be seen where all this will go.”

Google and Apple released a statement about it in May.

To learn more, visit Apple’s website or visit the Frequently Asked Questions page.

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