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VERIFY: Are people with iPhone or Android phones automatically signed up for contact tracing?

No, Apple and Google have built the technology for public health agency apps to work better with their operating systems. Users still need to opt-in.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

If you have an Apple or Android phone are you automatically signed up for contact tracing?

ANSWER:

You're not signed up for anything.

Apple and Google have created the technology that allows Apple and Android phones, and apps from public health agencies, to better communicate with each other.

Users still must opt-in to begin receiving "exposure notifications."

SOURCES:

Apple and Google joint statement- April 2020

Apple and Google joint statement- May 2020

Apple and Google- Exposure Notifications: Using technology to help public health authorities fight COVID‑19

Exposure Notifications Frequently Asked Questions- April 2020

PROCESS:

Posts on social media are sharing a warning about phones being used for contact tracing.

"Android users BEWARE, google automatically signed you up to COVID-19 tracing app," one person wrote on Facebook.

Others warned Apple users about updating their iOS with contact tracing capabilities.

Contact tracing is used to figure out who might be exposed to someone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus. 

There’s lots of warnings like these out there, but are they legit? 

Our Verify team found a joint statement from Apple and Google that helps clear it all up.

They’re not signing you up for anything. 

The statement says Google and Apple have built the technology for your phone and apps from public health agencies to better communicate.

Google and Apple have repeatedly said it's up to the user to opt-in.

On May 20, 2020, the company wrote:

"Starting today, our Exposure Notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. What we’ve built is not an app—rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. 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. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps." 

On the frequently asked questions page for this software, the companies write that you have the ability to turn it off by uninstalling the contact tracing app or turning off exposure notifications in your settings. 

So the claim that iPhone and Android phone users are automatically signed up for contact tracing, is false.

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