England and Wales launched a COVID-19 contact tracing app on Thursday, allowing users to trace contacts, check the local level of risk and record visits to restaurants and other businesses, four months after the technology was promised to the public.
The government had said a COVID-19 app would arrive in May, but early trials were dogged by problems, and developers abandoned home-grown technology in favour of Apple and Google’s model in June.
The app uses Bluetooth signals to log when a user is in close contact with another user, generally meaning within two metres for 15 minutes or more.
If someone then tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to share the result anonymously with their close contacts, who will each receive an alert and will have to isolate for 14 days.
The app generates a random ID for each user to protect privacy, and matches cases on the device rather than on a central server, as was the case in the first iteration.
It will also enable users to book a COVID-19 test subject to availability, check symptoms, and register at venues using a QR-type bar code displayed by businesses.
MacDailyNews Take: Good luck with this contact tracing app, England and Wales, but don’t expect it to deliver miracles.
The whole thing is basically a pacifier.
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 than 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, before the economy is irrevocably decimated.”
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 / vaccine and, for governments that use a centralized system (unlike this one), to track the spread of infections on the way to herd immunity.