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Coronavirus

COVID-19 exposure notification alerts: How to opt-out on iPhone and Android

Apple and Google’s joint contact tracing program has finally launched to the world at large. And so far, it seems, the results are decidedly mixed.

Whether it’s due to low adoption rates or data security issues, contact-tracing apps just won’t seem to catch on among the general public. Tap or click here to see why some people fear these apps could lead to security trouble down the road.

But Apple and Google aren’t giving up on contact-tracing just yet. In fact, Apple is adding in a brand new exposure notification feature to iOS that doesn’t even require a third-party app to work. It’s all part of Apple’s latest iOS update, which you can download today. Here’s what we know.

Apple integrates new exposure notifications into iOS 13 update

Apple has officially launched the latest version of iOS 13, which includes an upgrade in the fight against COVID-19. Previously, iOS 13 only included the API that would handle third-party contact tracing apps pushed by local health authorities. But now, thanks to Apple’s update, iPhones can run exposure notifications without the need to download apps.

Per Apple’s new update, dubbed “Exposure Notifications Express,” health authorities are no longer obligated to design and develop apps to handle the exchange of COVID-19 notifications and exposure data. Instead, all they need to do is provide a configuration profile directly to Apple. The iPhone will handle the rest so long as exposure notifications are on and working.

Usually, when iPhones install a provisioning profile through a business or third-party, the profile is downloaded via a website. This will likely be the case as more states adopt this time-saving method of getting exposure notifications on more phones.

This option may seem like a positive development, but just because it’s coming from Apple and Google rather than directly from state health officials doesn’t make it any less risky for your privacy. Sure, you may not have half-hearted apps with weak security, but the very nature of the program means your phone is constantly swapping data with others.

Tap or click here for a quick rundown on the privacy risks of contact-tracing apps.

Do I have to opt out to keep my privacy?

There’s one bit of good news surrounding this update from Apple: iPhone owners are opted-out by default. If you want to use the feature, you have manually opt in and consent to your phone being used for contact-tracing.

If you want to opt-in, open your phone’s settings, tap General and download the update under Software Update. Upon rebooting, follow these steps to activate the feature:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and tap Exposure Notifications.
  3. Tap Turn on Exposure Notifications to see if the feature is offered in your region. You can only access the feature if your local health authority has made the option available. Otherwise, you may have to search the iOS App Store for your state’s contact tracing app.
  4. Toggle Availability Alerts to get notified when contact tracing is available in your region.

Android users aren’t out of the woods, by the way. Google’s own version of the updated Exposure Notifications Express feature is in development right now, and will be available on Android systems later on in the year.

Is any of this safe? Can this actually help stop the spread?

Unfortunately, the major issues of unsecured data exchanges won’t easily be shaken by a couple of new software updates. Some even believe these security issues have stifled the rollout of contact-tracing apps in several more states. Tap or click here to see which states have apps available.

Will you be enabling contact tracing on your phone? At the very least, it’s one small way that ordinary people can play a part in slowing down the spread of the deadly coronavirus. It’s just a matter of weighing the pros and the cons for yourself.

Of course, if you want a more direct approach to fighting the disease, you could always look for work as a real-life contact tracer — and it pays well. Tap or click here to see if you qualify for the job.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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