In conjunction with Apple, Google has released an Exposure Notification API that health officials can use (with your voluntary permission) for COVID-19 contact tracing. If you want to verify that the feature is disabled on your phone, here’s how to turn off exposure logging and notifications on Android.
Google began rolling out the Exposure Notifications API to Android handsets through a Google Play Services update in May 2020. Although there is now a section for COVID-19 Notifications in your phone’s Settings menu, nothing is enabled by default, and you need to manually download an app from your local public health organization before any contact tracing starts working.
If you’re interested in learning more about how COVID-19 contact tracing works on your Android handset, the API and exposure notifications are identical to that found on Apple’s iPhone.
Start by opening the Settings menu on your device. The easiest way to get there is by swiping down from the top of your phone’s display (once or twice, depending on the handset’s manufacturer) and then tapping on the Gear icon.
Alternatively, swipe up from your device’s home screen to open the app drawer and then locate the “Settings” app.
Next, scroll down and select the “Google” option.
Tap on “COVID-19 Exposure Notifications” found at the top of the list. If the option isn’t shown on your Android handset, it means that your device hasn’t received the May 2020 (or later) Google Play Services update, and the API hasn’t been installed on your phone.
If you have installed a COVID-19 contact tracing app from your local public health organization and manually permitted it to use Google’s and Apple’s Exposure Notifications API, the options in the menu won’t be grayed out. Without you installing an app, the feature is disabled and cannot work.
Select “Delete Random IDs” to remove any anonymous Bluetooth beacon information that your handset has recorded or tap “Turn Off Exposure Notifications” to disable the contact tracing feature entirely.
To be extremely clear, you do not need to worry about the Exposure Notifications API sending personal health data to health officials or the government. Using the feature is entirely voluntary, and only works if you grant permission to apps provided by your local health organization (which, at the time of writing, no U.S. state has released).