UK NHS working with Apple-Google on COVID-19 contract tracing app

In the UK, senior sources say NHSX, the NHS’ technology arm, has been working at “breakneck speed” on a COVID-19 contract tracing app with Google and Apple. The app will use Bluetooth to alert users if they have been in close proximity with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

How the proposed system is designed to work:
Apple Google COVID. Apple and Google team on cross-platform COVID-19 contact tracing tool

Apple and Google team on cross-platform COVID-19 contact tracing tool
Click for larger view (Source: Apple and Google)

Tim Shipman and Nick Rufford for The Sunday Times:

Combined with a vast expansion in testing, which ministers claim will hit 100,000 a day by the end of the month, the app is a central plank in the government’s push to lift the lockdown. “We believe this could be important in helping the country return to normality,” a Whitehall source said.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is considering how to incentivise people to install the app. Experts say the “track and trace” concept only works effectively if 60% of people adopt it.

One idea under consideration would mean people being told they could resume normal work and home life if they installed it on their phones.

MacDailyNews Take: As long as this UK NHS COVID-19 app can be cleanly deleted and tracking stopped by users at any time, we see no problem with having an app that allows those who want to use it to opt-in. The problem is that if it is made a requirement to be allowed to “work,” there MUST be an end date or the risk of privacy intrusion will be too high a price.

No location data is truly anonymized. It can be cross-matched with other publicly-available data to identify and track individuals. The idea of any government requiring cellphone tracking to monitor it citizens’ movements, regardless of the reason, is chilling.

See also:
• What’s wrong with the Apple-Google COVID-19 contact tracing scheme
• Beware COVID-19 tracking: Emergency powers can outlive their emergencies

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin

8 Comments

  1. Nobody is being forced to participate. Anyone can sit at home until a vaccine is developed. There should also be an opt-out for people who can demonstrate that they have had the virus, have fully recovered, are not infectious, and have antibodies to prevent reinfection. In all other cases, there is no real way to do effective contact tracing without something like this. We will quickly be back to community spread and a second wave outbreak. Remember, the second wave of the 1918 flu killed far more victims that fall than the first wave in the spring.

    I am extremely concerned with the civil liberty implications, but there are a lot of lives at stake, too.

    1. A very irresponsible article ending with that quote. Essentially you are telling people not to install it. I would expect better from a, hopefully we’ll educated, journalist.

  2. There is no location data recorded. You’ve completely missed the point. The app records proximity with other phones, identified by an anonymous cryptographic code. If a user later is diagnosed with Covid, they can choose to report this, and then any other user who was in proximity with that user is notified of the fact. No location data is recorded. No user information is transmitted. It’s a smart solution and MacDailyNews, not for the first time, has missed the point.

  3. If any democrat ever worked with Apple of Google in the past, this administration would mindlessly defund it. There is no other logic used by Stable Genius.

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