Apple Maps now suggest self-quarantine after travel

Jul 25, 2020

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If you visit an airport in the near future, you may be getting a self-isolation notice from Apple Maps, first reported by 9to5Mac.

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Kyle Gray, a health care technology professional, spotted this friendly message from Apple after recently visiting an airport:

9to5Mac claims that the notification about the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance on self-quarantine appears to be purposefully sent to Apple Maps users who have recently traveled abroad, using on-device intelligence bypassing its own privacy measures.

The CDC guidance linked in the notification will advise travelers — in addition to quarantining for 14 days — to frequently check their own temperature, not go to work or school, avoid public transportation and be cognizant of social distancing.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

I recently visited airports in Phoenix and Seattle, but did not get this message since my travel was domestic for that sector — which would fit to the conditions stated before.

Despite the possibility that the notifications are being targeted at those arriving from abroad, they come as more cities and states institute new quarantine requirements even for domestic travelers.

While Hawaii and Alaska had already instituted stringent requirements to visitors regardless of nationality, cities and states in the continental U.S. have also been placing quarantine orders on domestic visitors. So far, the list requiring visitors from high-risk regions to quarantine is as follows:

Related: More states are now enforcing quarantine requirements

Apple’s own developments come after it had instituted a new feature showing coronavirus testing locations in all the 50 states and Puerto Rico on its Maps app.

The pandemic had also led Apple to implement new initiatives that we never thought would see under normal circumstances. For example, the Cupertino-based company announced that it would cooperate with Google to develop contact tracing technology.

With these updates seeking to put public health in the forefront, the concern about personal privacy invasion can naturally arise — possibly instilling fear into everyday users that companies can transform these devices for the benefit of “Big Brother.”

Apple Maps and its self-isolation notifications can be seen as an example of fear-mongering privacy dialogue, but Apple and Google are both actively avoiding centralized operations that could expose personal data — an approach that leading privacy, security and human rights scholars have publicly supported.

In the meantime, the best any of us can do is to abide by the social etiquette required because of the pandemic, such as wearing a mask and socially distancing whenever possible. Until a vaccine becomes available, every airline will enforce such policies to make sure that individuals feel safe.

Related: TPG face masks available for a limited time

Featured photo of LAX by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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