Apple and Google in 'Standoff' With UK Health Service Over COVID-19 Contact Tracing App

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Apple and Google are said to be in a "standoff" with the UK's health service over its plans to build an app that alerts users when they have been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

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Apple and Google announced on Friday that they are working together on Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world.

Apple says that user privacy and security will be central to the design of the project, which will use a decentralized API to prevent governments from building a surveillance-style centralized database of contacts.

However, according to The Guardian, that means if the NHS goes ahead with its original plans, its app would face severe limitations in its operation.

NHSX – the British health service's digital innovation unit – reportedly wasn't aware of Apple and Google's project before it was announced, and it now looks like the usefulness of its own app will be severely hampered or even rendered non-functional if it doesn't implement the protocol.

That's because without adhering to the Apple and Google API, a contact tracing app won't be able to access Bluetooth when it's running in the background, and would only work when the app was open and the phone unlocked.

Similar limitations have been demonstrated in Singapore's contact tracing app, TraceTogether, which requires the user to leave their phone unlocked to work properly. The app has a three-star rating on the App Store and has been installed by just 12 percent of the country's population.

For its part, a spokesperson for NHSX denied claims of a "standoff," telling The Guardian: "This suggestion is completely wrong. Everyone is in agreement that user privacy is paramount, and while our app is not dependent on the changes they are making, we believe they will be helpful and complementary."

Top Rated Comments

mazz0 Avatar
8 months ago


Please bear in mind that this was printed in a British newspaper therefore the chances of it being accurate are slightly less than 1%.

Basically move along, there’s nothing to see here.

We're talking about The Guardian, not some ****y tabloid.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
videosoul Avatar
8 months ago


Please bear in mind that this was printed in a British newspaper therefore the chances of it being accurate are slightly less than 1%.

Basically move along, there’s nothing to see here.

Err.... The Guardian is probably one of the most reliable and respected British newspapers with a strong history scrutinising and accurate investigative journalism.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kyjaotkb Avatar
8 months ago
So they built an app that had zero chance of being approved, with always-on BT access a la Tile, and now that Apple announced a framework to actually make it possible, they are... complaining?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SaxPlayer Avatar
8 months ago


So they built an app that had zero chance of being approved, with always-on BT access a la Tile, and now that Apple announced a framework to actually make it possible, they are... complaining?

Please bear in mind that this was printed in a British newspaper therefore the chances of it being accurate are slightly less than 1%.

Basically move along, there’s nothing to see here.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unggoy Murderer Avatar
8 months ago


Not this ^^^.

We're talking about The Guardian, not some ****y tabloid.

The Guardian is nothing short of a rag.

I'm pretty sure that Apple and Google will be doing everything they can to assist such development, so the chances of them hindering it for API usage limitations is virtually zero.

It would benefit everyone if The Guardian just disappeared.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Floop Avatar
8 months ago


Evidence?

Err, living in the UK, with a relative who has almost certainly had C19, and having done considerable research into the situation taking information from multiple different sources.

Here in the UK they aren't even regularly testing frontline health workers. People with suspected C19 are directed to stay at home, unless their breathing becomes seriously problematic, by which point the chance survival will have dropped significantly. The UK has managed to test slightly over 200,000 people so far of a population of 60 million. Germany are testing 500,000 people every *week*. And with testing barely available, there hasn't been ANY contact tracing to speak of, because what would be the point.

The UK's response to C19 has been woeful. I take my hat off to the NHS healthcare workers who are taking considerable risks to try and care for seriously ill people, but who are being failed by our government as they haven't even got appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) which is necessary to keep safe.

Despite this the daily national press briefing claims that there aren't problems with PPE, when there clearly are. Our government are telling lies on a daily basis.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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