Britain’s NHS has rejected the Apple-Google COVID-19 contact-tracing scheme. The UK’s coronavirus contact-tracing app is set to use a different model, despite concerns raised about privacy and performance.
The NHS says it has a way to make the software work “sufficiently well” on iPhones without users having to keep it active and on-screen. That limitation has posed problems for similar apps in other countries.
Like the authorities in many other countries, NHSX has opted to use wireless Bluetooth transmissions to keep track of each qualifying meeting… It has opted for a “centralised model” to achieve this – meaning that the matching process, which works out which phones to send alerts to – happens on a computer server. This contrasts with Apple and Google’s “decentralised” approach – where the matches take place on users’ handsets.
The tech giants believe their effort provides more privacy, as it limits the ability of either the authorities or a hacker to use the computer server logs to track specific individuals and identify their social interactions.
This approach puts the UK at odds with Switzerland, Estonia and Austria’s Red Cross, as well as a pan-European group called DP3T, which are pursuing decentralised designs.
Germany had been in line with NHSX, but its government announced on Sunday it had switched tack to a “strongly decentralised approach”. That leaves France as one of the more vocal advocates of a centralised model.
MacDailyNews Take: The NHS’s centralized approach to COVID-19 contact-tracing is the wrong approach. Regardless, centralized or decentralized, the whole thing is pie-in-the-sky piffle.
Even if you forwent the smartphones (1 in 5 people don’t even have a smartphone in the U.S., for example; 1 in 6 in the U.K.) and instead sent a dedicated contact-tracing bracelet to every single person in the country, you’d still be stuck with widespread non-compliance, inability to force compliance in many countries, non-charged / forgotten / lost bracelets, Bluetooth issues, false positives, etc., etc., etc.
Contact tracing / exposure notification apps are nothing more pablum for the masses. It’s simply a case of governments wanting to be able to tell citizens, “Want to feel safe while getting back to work, shopping, going out to eat, vacationing, etc.? There’s an app for that.”
“Don’t worry. Be happy. Download this app and go about your business.”
Might these apps help in some cases to get the relatively few people who will use them to seek testing or self-quarantine if/when the alarm goes off? Of course. But, overall, these apps are little more than security blankets for the citizenry to clutch on their way to herd immunity and, for governments that use a centralized system, to track the spread of infections on the way to herd immunity.