UK now wants Apple, Google to improve NHS contact tracing app

London, May 7 : In a U-turn, the UK government that earlier decided not to use the global framework proposed by Apple and Google for its coronavirus contact tracing app has now asked software developers to look and help switch to the exposure notification technology offered by the US tech giants.

The about-turn is result of privacy watchdogs criticizing the UK's government's decision to go alone on its contact tracing app that "will be less effective than incorporating Apple and Google's software, while also gathering too much personal information in a central database," reports The Financial Times.

The NHS app "has also raised concerns about whether the UK app will be compatible with those under development by other countries which are using the Apple and Google", the report said on Thursday.

Keeping this in mind, the government has asked software developers to "investigate" switching its contact-tracing app to the global standard proposed by Apple and Google.

The NHS is scheduled to begin testing the in-house contact tracing solution as part of wider efforts to monitor and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Last month, despite privacy and security concerns, NHSX which is the digital arm of the UK's health organization, decided to create a centralised contact tracing app on its own.

The framework proposed by Apple and Google is a decentralised one, meaning that the tracking information will not be stored in a central server.

Apple and Google had offered their expertise to help NHSX build its own app.

"We've been working with Apple and Google throughout the app's development and it's quite right and normal to continue to refine the app," an NHSX spokesperson was quoted as saying.

France has also rejected comprehensive APIs from Apple and Google in favour of an app that will store users' information in a central database.

The UK is one of the few countries that has chosen to create a contact-tracing app that is incompatible with the contact-tracing API currently being developed by Google and Apple.

In their latest update, Apple and Google have stated that their exposure notification apps (earlier called contact tracing apps) are prohibited from seeking permission to access users location services.

Use of the Application Programming Interface (API) will be restricted to one app per country to promote high user adoption and avoid fragmentation.

If a country has opted for a regional or state approach, the companies are prepared to support those authorities, the tech giants said in a statement.

On April 10, Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing, with user privacy and security core to the design.

Both the companies have provided developers with new resources to help them make exposure notification apps, including user interfaces (UI) and sample code for both iOS and Android.



Source: IANS