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Fact check: Google did not automatically sign up Android users for COVID-19 tracing app

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Ethelyn Brye is an award-winning author and blogger. Growing up in Switzerland and influenced by renowned Swiss design and a lot of fresh mountain air, she attended and completed design studies in Geneva. Post graduation she moved to Washington State to work for a design firm, but her love of writing brought her to Cyanosaur. She's highly interested in strategy rpgs, mountain climbing, board games with friends and skiing. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her lovely cat Armstrong.

CLOSE Contact tracing apps use anonymous data to tell users if they encountered someone who has COVID-19. Here’s how it works and how to make it effective. USA TODAYThe claim: Google automatically signed up all Android users for a COVID-19 tracing appNew mobile contact tracing technology aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID-19 has prompted claims on social media that Google automatically updated all Android devices with a tracing app.A June 3 Facebook posting reads, “Android users BEWARE, google automatically signed you up to COVID-19 tracing app.” The post then goes on to urge Android users to turn off COVID-19 exposure notifications under Usage & Diagnostics in their Google Services located in the device’s settings. The claim follows reports that public health officials and technology companies are working on contact tracing methods to identify people who have been near someone infected with the coronavirus. Similar claims appeared on social media platforms in May — and have been debunked — after Congress introduced a bill focused on contact tracing and increased testing.More: Apple and Google release coronavirus contact tracing technology for public health mobile appsThe user who shared the post did not respond to USA TODAY for comment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously stated that contact tracing is a key strategy for COVID-19 prevention because it aims to identify and notify those who may have been exposed.Exposure notifications explainedOn May 20, Apple and Google announced that COVID-19 exposure notifications, a mobile tool that allows for digital contact tracing, were available for use on iOS and Android devices.The new technology can track users who are in the proximity of someone for at least five minutes who has tested positive for the virus and anonymously notify users through Bluetooth technology. Participation is completely voluntary.Opinion: I’m a coronavirus contact tracer. Asking vulnerable people to stay home isn’t always easy.”Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to exposure notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app,” a news release from Google and Apple states. The companies noted that “strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.”Here’s how it works: With your consent, if you test positive for the coronavirus, anyone who was near you within the past 14 days will get a notification on their smartphone that they have been potentially exposed. The notification will read: “You have recently come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Tap for more information.”The effectiveness of the technology largely depends on who is carrying their phones with them and keeping their phones active, on how many people – once they learn they have tested positive for the virus – decide to use the technology to let others know they may have been exposed, and how many people – once they receive an alert about possible exposure – follow public health protocols about testing, self-isolation and additional contact tracing. The technology would assist public health officials
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Apple Watch Likely to Adopt MicroLED Display Technology in 3-4 Years

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