Utah Department of Health exploring the use of Apple & Google technology for COVID-19 contact tracing

Posted at 12:22 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 07:23:58-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health says the state intends to explore the use of Apple and Google’s COVID-19 Exposure Notification tools to tell people in Utah about potential exposures to the virus through their smart devices.

As a result of this, the state health department says it's canceling its previous bid to get other companies to submit their proposals to add their Bluetooth tracking technology to the state's Healthy Together app.

That app came under scrutiny due to privacy concerns with location tracking, so the state turned that feature off.

It also faced pushback on Utah's Capitol Hill, because the state paid a lot of money for something that is no longer seen as useful when it comes to COVID-19 contact tracing.

The Utah Department of Health is still encouraging people in the state to download and use the Healthy Together app as a tool to self-assess COVID-19 symptoms, find testing centers, get test results, and find current information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

With the Apple and Google exposure notification technology, anyone notified about a potential exposure will not get any information about the person who potentially exposed them.

Once you opt-in to the notification system, the Exposure Notifications System will generate a random ID for your device.

To help ensure these random IDs can’t be used to identify you or your location, they change every 10-20 minutes.

Your phone periodically checks all the random IDs associated with positive COVID-19 cases against its own list.

You do not need to have the app open for this process to take place.

If there’s a match, you will receive a COVID-19 exposure notification, with further instructions from your public health authority on how to keep you and the people around you safe.

The state says no location or exposure information is shared with the state or other third parties either through Apple and Google's technology.

This technology only works if you decide to opt-in. If you change your mind, you can turn it off at any time.

So far, 12 other states are using Apple and Google's contact tracing technology.

Only government public health authorities have access to the technology that enables exposure notifications, and their apps must meet specific criteria around privacy and security.