UK contact tracing app delayed until June

Nhs Contact Tracing
Nhs Contact Tracing (Image credit: NHSX)

What you need to know

  • The UK's contact tracing app has been delayed until June.
  • Deployment was supposed to take place in mid-May.
  • It is reported that developers need time to iron out problems, of which there are many.

A report suggests that the UK's NHS contact tracing app has been delayed until June.

As reported by The Guardian, health secretary Matt Hancock had previously stated the app would roll out in mid-May, however, it doesn't seem to be ready:

NHS insiders said the deployment of the tracking app currently being trialed on the Isle of Wight would not take place until next month as developers iron out problems. "This is a complicated thing to do and get right," one source said.It is the latest in a string of slippages that have followed Hancock's declaration. By the end of last week, the launch date moved back to the end of the month, and on Monday Downing Street said it would be ready "in a few weeks".

No doubt, part of the delay will be down to all the workaround efforts the government has committed itself to after rejecting Apple and Google's contact tracing API. Shooting itself in the foot, it is desperately trying to make the app run smoothly and in the background without using all of your phone's battery life. All of this is because the NHS insists on using a centralized tracing method that records some user data in a central database. This approach has been rejected by Apple and Google as too invasive on user privacy.

Backtracking, government sources are now trying to focus on the human contact-tracing effort of the government, trying to re-frame the app as a "digital supplement" to plans to hire 21,000 human contact tracers. This part of the plan is going just as poorly.

Earlier this week, several glaring security issues were uncovered in the NHS' contact tracing app, including the fact that the random identifier used to hide user data only changes once a day and the government's own admission that the NHS app was rolled out to testers in the Isle of Wight before encryption was finished.

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Stephen Warwick