Despite the disaster show it’s been, the NHS is pushing ahead despite every possible warning not too. The COVID19 app developed by the NHSX in the NHS has seen privacy backlash, public disappointment, and overall condemnation.
The app doesn’t use Apple and Google’s COVID19 API, instead, it uses a centralized system, which privacy advocates have spoken out vigorously against. A report this week surfaced saying that the UK government was working on a 2nd app using the API developed by the Silicon tech giants, however, it seems things have changed.
Keeping in mind that report did say that the NSH had no plans for a transition away from its current app, it was expected to make some refinements. However, today UK Health secretary Matt Hancock says that the government is “pleased” with the app and its test trial in Isle of Wight last Monday, he adds that the app is “on-track” for a mid-May release.
Hancock says that the government will learn from the lessons of its test trial in the Isle of Wight, and make “technical” improvements along the way.
The app when it was trialed saw reports of error with the download, battery drainages due to its constant reliance on Bluetooth, and users reported getting false COVID19 warnings. Additionally, the app uses a centralized standard to collect data. Apple and Google’s API uses a decentralized system. The difference lays with how user data and information are exposed and protected. A decentralized system allows user data to be stored on the device, meaning that only the devices’ unique code, which does not contain personal information is shared with health officials.
The centralized approach being used by the NHS does the opposite. It puts all user information into one database if that database is accessed, whoever would have access to all of the users contacts, whereabouts, Bluetooth data, and more. Last week an NHS spokesperson was unable to state clearly who has access to user data, but said its kept safe.
According to government data, the app was download 55,000 times, however, the actual number of downloads in the UK is unknown.