Do Google and Apple track the COVID-19 contact on their phone?

You may have recently noticed that your cell phone now has a setting for COVID-19 exposure notifications.

The “COVID-19 Exposure Record” setting, as seen in the Privacy section of an iPhone. The setup is designed to work with applications developed by public health agencies to track exposure to COVID-19 among the public, but it is not an application or tracker, inside and outside of itself.

The sight of these settings on iPhones and Android devices has led some people on social media to claim that Apple and Google have uploaded tracking apps to individual phones without permission. That is not true.

Instead, the two companies are partnering to create technology that allows applications created by public health agencies to work more precisely on Android phones and iPhones, according to a press release from the two companies.

Apple and Google announced last month that they are partnering to assist public health officials with a process called contact tracing. Public health agencies use contact tracing to track who has been potentially exposed to a disease, such as COVID-19, as part of their efforts to contain the spread of the disease.