Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Data Collection for COVID-19 Exposure Notification
April 13, 2022
Privacy-preserving contact tracing mobile applications, such as those that use the Google-Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) service, have the potential to limit the spread of COVID-19 in communities; however, the privacy-preserving aspects of the protocol make it difficult to assess the performance of the Bluetooth proximity detector in real-world populations. The GAEN service configuration of weights and thresholds enables hundreds of thousands of potential configurations, and it is not well known how the detector performance of candidate GAEN configurations maps to the actual "too close for too long" standard used by public health contact tracing staff. To address this gap, we exercised a GAEN app on Android phones at a range of distances, orientations, and placement configurations (e.g., shirt pocket, bag, in hand), using RF-analogous robotic substitutes for human participants. We recorded exposure data from the app and from the lower-level Android service, along with the phones' actual distances and durations of exposure.