Google integrates exposure notification tech into Android 11

Google is integrating its Exposure Notification System (ENS) into the upcoming Android 11 and people will be able to use Exposure Notification apps without turning on the device location setting.

Google said that it has made this update for Exposure Notifications only and all other apps and services will still be prohibited from performing Bluetooth scanning unless the device location setting is on.

The exposure notification apps (earlier called contact tracing apps) use Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing.

“ENS has been designed in such a way that neither the system nor the apps using it can infer device location through Bluetooth scanning, and apps that are allowed to use ENS are subject to additional policies that disallow automatic collection of location,” Dave Burke, VP of Engineering at Google, said in a blog post on Friday.

Google is preparing to release Android 11 to the public on September 8, according to reports.

According to Google, in current versions of Android, when you turn on the device location setting, your phone continues to prohibit access to any apps, including Google apps, that don’t have permission to use device location.

If you turn on the device location setting to use ENS, it won’t affect the decisions you’ve already made about specific apps. You can always view and change which apps have access to your device location by going to Settings, then Location and App permissions.

In May, Google partnered with Apple to launch the Exposure Notifications System (ENS) and made it available to public health authorities around the world in their fight against Covid-19.

As of today, public health authorities have used ENS to launch in 16 countries and regions across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America, with more apps currently under development.

When an exposure is detected, public health authorities now have more flexibility in determining the level of risk associated with that exposure based on technical information from the API.

“Bluetooth calibration values for hundreds of devices have been updated to improve the detection of nearby devices,” said Google.

The API now supports interoperability between countries, following feedback from governments that have launched Exposure Notification apps.

“We’ve improved clarity, transparency and control for users. For example, the Exposure Notifications settings on Android now include a simple on/off toggle at the top of the page. In addition, users will also see a periodic reminder if ENS is turned on”, informed Google.