When a network outage happened last June 15, there is a wild rumor that Apple and Google were able to install the COVID-19 tracking app without permission.
Is it true that these companies took advantage of the service outage to secretly install COVID-19 tracing apps in smartphones? When the outage happened, some mobile phones were unable to call or answer calls, and even receive text messages too.
Rumors about possible breach spread like wildfire
Some Facebook posts alleged that during the outage, companies installed tracing apps without the user's permission. This was for both Apple and Android OS too, according to Snopes. Many claimed the rumors were real, but with some digging, here are the results.
The June network shutdown was mostly with T-Mobile customers, but these apps were already available at an earlier date. Another thing that people are mistaken with is that trackers need the user to activate it. Many of what was claimed are not even real, with little to no evidence at all.
According to the facts, last June 15, 2020, service providers like T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T experienced a brief service interruption. All was okay for AT&T and Verizon, but for T-Mobile, everything was going downhill. Most of the issues were traced to the network of T-Mobile. They had circuit problem as well that caused the shutdown, according to Q13 Fox.
A feature of the new tracker was previously in mobiles, but it was not fully working before the June network outage. This feature was found in Android phones on Google settings. It is thought to be a proto version of these trackers.
These notifications were called an application programming interface (API), but it is not a phone app too. What it does is give app developers what they need for the software's development. Most health agencies use this API made by Google and Apple. It was made clear that if any user will not download any app using the API, there is no way to collect the data at all.
Android users may tap the COVID-19 notifications option that can be accessed via Google settings. What's needed is an app for their region to enable the tracking up.
Last May 20, both Google and Apple told about the exact date of the exposure notification API. It utilizes the Bluetooth function of the mobile to indicate all COVID-19 positives nearby. It is important to note that both Apple and Google keep the users' privacy by preventing the data to be harvested by authorities. Bluetooth is encrypted to protect users of the app from privacy intrusions, according to Google.
Apple and Google were asked about their side
Apple did not comment on the outage and the tracker. Instead, the spokesperson said that everyone must activate the exposure notifications system to let all the apps work. They also claimed that the location cannot be accessed, and the users report are needed. Moreover, all data gathered in the COVID-19 tracing app is for COVID-19 efforts only. Both Google and Apple mentioned a protection policy is there, as confirmed in CDN-Apple.
Google, on the other hand, claimed there is no relation to the June 15 network outage and exposure notifications roll-out. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, (EFF) Bluetooth proximity is the best way for automated COVID tracking.
No connection exists with installing COVID-19 tracking apps, and the network outage was not connected either. The user is the one who allows data to be tracked.