The UK is making a coronavirus contact tracing app

The United Kingdom recently gave in and admitted to be building an app that would tell its users if the user had been in close proximity or even contact with someone who has been affected by COVID-19.

This announcement was made on the 12th of April,2020 by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock himself, at the daily government briefing. He also mentioned that the NHS was “working closely with the world’s leading tech companies” on the plan.

The test version of this will be launched in the North of England next week, at a secure location with various families. The whole app is based on the point that those who have self-diagnosed themselves and feel that they have COVID-19 will come out and accept it on the app.

The app then sends a yellow alert to other users if they have been in proximity to this person for some time. If the diagnosed users actually have COVID-19 after a proper checkup by the doctors, then a red alert shall be sent to the other users, asking them and advising them to go into quarantine.

To state that they have been tested positive, the user needs to give the verification code, which is received along with their COVID-19 test result. In a nutshell, this app works only on a voluntary basis. Matt also promised that all the data sent to the app should be kept safe with the highest standards of security, thus urging everyone to help the government help the public.

The app may be made upon or built around Apple and Google’s ideas! As it needs to access locations and Bluetooth signals and more technicalities to check if the user has come in proximity of someone affected with the virus. The app will use Google and Apple’s API.

The University of Cambridge’s Prof Ross Anderson had the following concerns:

  • raised thought about how effective the technology would be unless everyone was regularly tested
  • flagged doubts about the use of Bluetooth, given that its signals can go through thin walls, meaning there could be false trails and leads
  • warned about “trolling,” suggesting that allowing people to report they were ill without any verification opened up the system to abuse

The NHSX feels that if more than half the population of UK works, then the app will be effective.

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