Contact tracing apps could turn Britain into 'surveillance state', academics warn

Joanna Estrada
April 30, 2020

Apple and Google have released the very first version of their exposure notification API, which they previously called the contact tracing API .

Apple and Google plan to debut their exposure notification APIs in a beta capacity this week, which will allow public health authorities to begin developing apps that take advantage of them. Google is also releasing a new beta of Google Play services with the first version of its exposure notification API. If someone develops the coronavirus, everyone who came into contact with that person (i.e. their app came close enough for their ID to be logged by others) will receive an alert. It too had indicated it had found a way to work around Apple's restrictions, but has since acknowledged power consumption problems as well as "interference" if users have other Bluetooth and location-tracking apps open.

Fraunhofer HHI was told on Saturday that it was being taken off the project, correspondence seen by Reuters showed.

Matthew Gould, head of the state-run service's digital innovation arm NHSX, said the in-house app - reportedly favoured over similar software developed by Google and Apple - would be trialled in a small area to gauge its effectiveness.

So far little is publicly known about the all-important details of the NHSX contact-tracing app.

The app uses bluetooth technology to log the phones of other people that the user comes into proximity with.

He said: "The message needs to be: if you want to keep your family and yourselves safe, if you want to protect the NHS and stop it being overwhelmed and at the same time we want to get the country back and get the economy moving, the app is going to be an essential part of the strategy for doing that".

Contact tracing is critical in curbing the Coronavirus spread around the country and indeed around the world.

A smartphone app created to help contain the spread of Covid-19 when lockdown measures are eased is "two to three weeks" away from being rolled out, MPs have heard. "First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities". Then, this data will be combined with people who voluntarily report that they have tested positive for Coronavirus.

The UK has been pursuing its own tracking solution since before Apple and Google announced plans to build a coronavirus tracking solution that can be utilized by governments and health agencies worldwide. "These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores", says Google in an official statement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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