Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Brazil integrates Apple-Google exposure notification tech into coronavirus app

The new functionality is available to approximately 10 million users of the government-backed coronavirus app.

Brazil's federal government-backed Covid-19 smartphone app has been updated with the Apple-Google exposure notification. The functionality is now available to approximately 10 million users of the coronavirus app launched by the Ministry of Health (MoH) as a source of information about the pandemic.

The launch of the app follows trials led by the Ministry of Health's technology department Datasus, which commenced in June. According to the MoH, only the federal government will be licensed to use the exposure notification technology in Brazil.

Google and Apple announced their joint effort around the Exposure Notifications technology framework in May as a means to tell someone they may have been exposed to the virus. The tool, adopted by countries such as Italy and Uruguay, is seen by the Brazilian health authorities as an important element in slowing the spread of Covid-19, since the virus can be spread asymptomatically.

Available on Android or Apple devices, the app compiles and encrypts anonymized data and reports from positive Covid-19 cases to notify app users when they've been at a 1.5-2 meters distance from people who have the virus for longer than 5 minutes, through  Bluetooth Low Energy. The notifications only work between users who have installed the official Covid-19 app.

According to the Brazilian authorities, there was a particular focus on the privacy and security aspects of the new exposure notification functionality. The application does not track the movements of those who have tested positive or the people they had contact with. No personal information, such as name or phone number, current location, or ID details are disclosed in the process.

As a means to ensure that only real cases are reported through the app, the new functionality links to a numeric token issued by the Ministry of Health, which refers to the validation of positive Covid-19 tests. Before generating the token, the government cross-references the exam and the records of e-SUS Notifica, a platform used by health professionals to log confirmed and suspected cases and the National Health Data Network, which also gathers health information from Brazilian patients.

Users will receive a notification if they had contact with someone who has been infected at some point in the previous 14 days, but the information will not include any specific information regarding when exactly the encounter took place. The data will be only available in the app during a 14-day period.

The alert will also mention the notification is a preventive measure and that the person being notified will not necessarily have Covid-19, but needs to be aware of the symptoms. The app also warns users of risks relating to fake news and that users should be aware of any information coming through email, phone or SMS, since communication relating to the notifications will only take place inside the app.