The American Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) is working with Apple, Google and Microsoft to build a national server that securely stores COVID-19 exposure notification data, a system that is expected to strengthen state and territory efforts to contain the virus,media reported. APHL detailed the project in a blog post Friday, aiming to develop a more comprehensive and cohesive exposure notification solution for the United States.
APHL wants to provide secure compilation and make this information available on a national server, rather than storing user contact tracking keys – as well as critical, time-sensitive information – on multiple, non-linked servers run by state agencies. The agency says storing the keys of affected users in a single database eliminates duplication and enables notification across state borders. In addition, state and territory agencies consolidated with APHL’s proposed servers will be able to establish exposure notification applications more quickly.
The system implements apple and Google’s exposure notification API, which uses a random device identifier — the key — to generate a temporary ID that is sent between devices via close Bluetooth communication. By exchanging keys, apps that integrate Apple and Google systems can track and notify users when they come into contact with other people who have tested positive for the virus.
Instead of storing data on a central server run by Apple or Google, the solution places anonymous Bluetooth beacons on the user’s device until participants choose to share information with the outside world. If users are diagnosed with COVID-19, they can choose to upload a 14-day list of anonymous contacts to the distributor, which matches the beacon ID and notifies them of their close contact with the carrier. If licensed, your doctor can also browse the data.
These protections also apply to the APHL initiative.
Although not specifically outlined in Friday’s announcement, APHL is likely to take over the role of providing a contact allocation server, in this case for the entire United States. Microsoft is working with the project to provide a national cloud key server based on open source designs created by Google Cloud.
“We are proud to work with Apple, Google and Microsoft to enable state and territory public health agencies to use this breakthrough technology,” said Bill Whitmar, director of APHL and director of the Missouri Public Health Laboratory. “Apps using this technology will quickly inform users of possible contact with COVID-19 and provide them with information that they can use to protect themselves and their families.”
APHL has extensive experience connecting public health laboratories, entities and government agencies. Launched in 2006, the agency’s Public Health Laboratory Interoperability Program was one of the first systems to allow the exchange of standardized data between public health entities. This was followed by the APHL Informatics Messaging Service, which, according to the post, has evolved from a one-way delivery of critical health data to a cloud-based platform that “transmits, translates, validates, and hosts data for federal, state, and local public health agencies.”