What you need to know
- The UK's National Health Service is lining up to debut its contact tracing app.
- Efforts have been met with skepticism over its decision not to follow Apple and Google's decentralized model.
- Despite this, NHSX says that its engineers have met the challenges that this could cause.
The NHS has said that its UK contact tracing app will be functional and practical, despite the fact it has chosen not to go with Apple and Google's decentralized model of contact tracing.
As reported by ZDNet:
A spokesperson for NHSX (the digital arm of the NHS) has told ZDNet that engineers have used Apple and Google's standard API and that the app adheres to Bluetooth low energy. Where its plan differs, is in the use of a centralized database:
Apple and Google's solution would never collect any geographic data, nor would it feature a centralized database of user information. The NHS' decision not to go with Apple and Google's preferred model will mean that its app will not be able to run in the background, instead, having to be opened every time your phone detects another device running the software, a massive inconvenience, impractical, and a drain on battery life.
A spokesperson however stated:
As the report notes, there is clearly support for both possible approaches, Jim Killock of Open Rights Group told ZDNet that "it obviously seems, on the surface, a better approach to use Google and Apple's system" and that the NHS should have to give a very clear explanation as to why it couldn't make a solution more privacy-friendly.
On the other hand, Cambridge professor of security engineering Ross Anderson said that Apple and Google's approach would broadcast a warning to everyone, and that "99% of the time it's going to be a false positive." He also noted that Apple and Google's solution "is a huge opportunity for abuse." By using a central database, a questionnaire can ensure that someone reporting symptoms or a possible case can be assessed to ensure the information is correct. Anderson also said:
Recently, Germany has u-turned on its own centralized contact tracing effort, instead choosing to operate a decentralized model as advocated by Apple. It remains to be seen whether the NHS's own offering will be up to standard.
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I won't be installing it, end I'll be advising my friends and family not to as well. The Google/Apple method is pretty solid from a security and privacy standpoint. I don't trust the NHS or the UK government to either want or be able to protect me on those fronts.
I wouldnt trust Google either. Remember it wasnt that long ago when they were willing to help subvert human rights by working with the CCP.
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