NEWS13 April 2021

Apple and Google reject NHS Covid-19 app update

Covid-19 News Privacy Technology UK

UK – An update to the UK’s NHS Covid-19 App has been delayed after Google and Apple reportedly objected to the potential privacy implications of greater sharing of user data.

According to The Guardian newspaper, Google and Apple had problems with an update allowing the app to ask users’ permission to upload their check-in history if they test positive for Covid-19.

The NHS app, which was launched in September, is based on a ‘decentralised’ model whereby user information is not shared with a central database. This followed the abandonment in June 2020 of a centralised version of the app designed to be run by the UK government.

The system currently in place generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can then be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth. The app does not hold personal information.

The Guardian reports that Google and Apple had stipulated when taking on the contract for the NHS app that it would avoid any changes that could lead to people’s movements being tracked or their data being saved in a centralised data base.

The government has said it is working with Google and Apple to find a solution, and that other features of the app, such as allowing someone to be notified that they may have been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19, remain in place.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: “The deployment of the functionality of the NHS Covid-19 App to enable users to upload their venue history has been delayed.

“This does not impact the functionality of the app and we remain in discussions with our partners to provide beneficial updates to the app which protect the public.”

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