NHS Covid-19 Contact Tracing App to be Tested This Week

By Gary Cutlack on at

All that complaining we do about technology encroaching on our privacy may be about to go out the window, as a contact tracing app that may help form a pathway to ending our coronavirus lockdown is in development. Yes, by all means have our identifying information, if it means we can jump the socially-distanced queue.

Tracking is usually done with the benign ambition of serving us more relevant advertising. This, though, is an NHS-led development – now incorporating location APIs unlocked by Google and Apple – that sees our whereabouts monitored along with others', so should anyone in our limited social circles declare themselves infected a notification would tell anyone they've been near of late. An actual diagnosis of Covid-19 would send out an order to quarantine to all contacts. And there we go. Technology actually helping for once.

Of course, some people wouldn't be able to use the app, some people wouldn't want to use it, and some might leave their phones at home every now and again, so exactly how it would help is a little vague. The app's development is so far along already that the NHS's tech department is preparing to test a version with a small group of families in England this week, though, so answers to the questions of how and how much it may help should soon be forthcoming.

Health secretary Matt Hancock seems to have been sold the idea, though, and he's already well prepared to bat away the endless privacy questions it raises, as he explained: "All data will be handled according to the highest ethical and security standards, and would only be used for NHS care and research. And we won't hold it any longer than is needed."

So that's the dystopian question for today; would you agree to a high-level of tracking if it means you can leave the house without vigilantes grassing you up to the police because from what they can see of your shopping it doesn't all appear essential? [BBC]

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