What you need to know
- The NHS has clashed with Apple and Google over its contact tracing app.
- Apple and Google have refused to support the current UK plans.
- That's because they won't support apps that require a centralized database of contacts.
Apple and Google have clashed with the NHS over the latter's plans to create a contact-tracing app which uses a centralized database of users.
As reported by The Guardian
Apple and Google announced its partnership last week, in a joint effort to enable Bluetooth technology that could help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 without sacrificing user privacy or security. It involves launching APIs and operating system-level technology. The APIs will be released in May, enabling interoperability between Android and iOS devices which use apps from public health authorities. The two are also planning to build a "Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform" into iOS and Android.
The Guardian notes that at current, Apple and Google won't support the NHS's current plans. If not, it means the NHS app for use in the UK will be severely limited, almost laughably so. That app wouldn't work if a user's screen was turned off, or if any other app other than the contact tracer was being used. It would mean your app would have to be active and open all the time, running down your battery and leaving you at risk of losing personal data if you lost your phone or it was stolen.
The NHS denied reports of a standoff and said:
However a digital rights lecturer, Dr Michael Veale noted:
A source reportedly stated that the NHS was hoping limits on Bluetooth controls would be lifted for COVID-19, where currently limits prevent using Bluetooth invading too much on user privacy.
Without the support of Apple and Google, it sounds like the NHS contact tracing app will be practically useless. The NHS will almost certainly have to change course if it wants its efforts to be effective in this regard.
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