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UK gov considering switch to Apple-Google Covid-19 app tech

by Mark Tyson on 11 June 2020, 12:12

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), UK Government

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UK-dwellers might have expected to be able to download and install the UK government sanctioned, NHS-X branded, Covid-19 contract tracing app by now. It was claimed to be a success in trials in the Isle of Wight and was trumpeted as becoming available across England from 1st June, by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, reports the BBC. Such an app is thought be an essential tool to safely relax the 'lock-down' across the country.

According to the BBC, the UK's homegrown app, now open-sourced, has been having issues with the method of estimating contact proximity via Bluetooth is causing problems for developers. A record of any app users' proximity to others who go on to contract Covid-19 is an important thing for the tracing app to get right.

Over recent weeks I have received many emails from privacy rights organisations about the UK app's centralised approach to contact matching and tracing. User data will be processed on a central server - but that data will be good for the NHS to get a bigger picture of what is going on. Some other countries, and tech companies, solutions are decentralised with the app doing the contact tracing and matching on something more like a peer-to-peer method.

On Tuesday Poland decided to switch from centralised to decentralised design. Likewise, countries such as Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Latvia have adopted the Apple-Google tracking tech.

With time marching on, and new cases and deaths mounting up, there are some ministers that are considering that a switch to Apple-Google tracking tech would be the right choice. Perhaps because of this, the app rollout across England didn't happen at the start of the month and instead it has been indicated that the app will be ready at the start of next month, though no final decision on timing has been taken.

Do HEXUS readers have any thoughts about the UK's Covid-19 contact tracing app?

Update, 18th June 2020: "UK virus-tracing app switches to Google-Apple model," reports the BBC.



HEXUS Forums :: 32 Comments

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holy shoot, is there any government IT project that actually works? They're back pedalling because of the reported security holes and thankfully some MPs/Lords are not just rolling over and saying “ok then”. That and who would have thought that it might be more complicated to get working smoothly than they first thought? It's almost like the MPs making these decisions have never tried writing some software of their own… Anyone who's had to debug will surely understand far quicker than someone who never has.
Having had a peek at the source last month, this surprises me not one single jot. Putting arch techno-fool Matt Hancock in overall charge of a significant IT project was always going to end in tears.

By the time a usable (i.e. rewritten, DP-3T based) iteration of the app is ready, the need for it will most likely have passed.
ik9000
It's almost like the MPs making these decisions have never tried writing some software of their own… Anyone who's had to debug will surely understand far quicker than someone who never has.

There are one or two MPs with experience in software/hardware development. A couple of Lords too. However, Hancock isn't among them, and, joking about his ineptitude aside, there are a lot of reasons why the current version of the app is such a misfire - some of them quite nuanced and borne out of a wish to do good things. However the project management has been abysmal. Among other things, no attempt to weigh up the usual public service organisation's determination to get a gold-plated solution with the need to have the thing out, working, trusted and on people's devices.

In fairness though, quite a few other countries have screwed up in this area. And even the South Korean system, lauded in many places as a standard to aim at, has actually not been anywhere near as successful as some of its supporters would like to admit.
I'm under the impression little Matty Hancock is being fattened up for the chop.

Wasn't servio(?) Or whatever the services company is called just given another 100 million to continue the app? The CEO funnily enough has a brother in government. There are also concerns over the data which will be held on record.

This should have been ready months ago. With the heads down \ plough on approach to reopening the country; the infrastructure is not there to do it safely. R is supposed to be around 1, we are status 4 (as laid out in the roadmap) and they are talking about reducing social distancing.
Domestic_Ginger
I'm under the impression little Matty Hancock is being fattened up for the chop.

Wasn't servio(?) Or whatever the services company is called just given another 100 million to continue the app? The CEO funnily enough has a brother in government. There are also concerns over the data which will be held on record.

This should have been ready months ago. With the heads down \ plough on approach to reopening the country; the infrastructure is not there to do it safely. R is supposed to be around 1, we are status 4 (as laid out in the roadmap) and they are talking about reducing social distancing.

I think you've answered yourself. They'll just blame Matt Hancock blither a bit, carry on, and keep trying to bury the death figures that show how awfully they've handled it. To be honest judging by my trip to Tesco yesterday lunch time 50% of people seem to have given up on social distancing already so might as well just accept a second spike is coming.