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Should you be worried about COVID-19 tracing technology hidden inside your cell phone?

HOUSTON – Your cell phone could be the latest weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

Some of you noticed the new technology that seemed to pop up out of nowhere late last week and you asked Channel 2 Investigates if you need to worry.

How did it get there? And exactly what is it doing? In both Apple and Android phones, you will find the “Covid-19 Exposure Notifications” link.

We went to Mary Dickerson, the Chief Information Security Officer for the University of Houston, for answers.

This is what you need to know:

  • Apple and Google created the Covid-19 tracking technology that will work with apps that may be created by state health departments.
  • The technology is downloaded on iPhones when you update IOS. It appears on android devices when you update the Google app.
  • What is on your phone now is not an app. It is not tracking you. If an app is created by health authorities, you can make the decision whether to opt into the contact tracing program and download the app.
  • To date, only 3 states (Alabama, North Dakota and South Carolina) have expressed an interest in creating a contact tracing app. Texas is not one of them.

In theory, if an app is created, Dickerson described how it would work.

“If you and I are both at Starbucks and I have it enabled on my phone and you have it enabled on your phone, our phones will exchange the random ID numbers,” Dickerson said. “So I will get a listing of your ID number in my phone because I have been in proximity with you.”

If either of the users later tests positive for COVID-19, they can go back into the app and tell it to share the information with the users they were in contact with.

“How long was I around them, and was I two inches from them, or two feet,” said Dickerson. She says since the app is only using random ID numbers, there is no threat t