Coronavirus UK contact tracing app
In this blog, I am going to talk about Coronavirus UK contact tracing app. Building a coronavirus contact-tracing app that might help the UK emerge from lockdown has been a titanic effort and it has largely taken place in private.
More details have emerged about a being developed by UK authorities. NHSX CEO, Matthew Gould, said today that future versions of the app could ask users to share location data to help authorities learn more about how the virus propagates.
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Mr Gould told the Science and Technology Committee the app would be “technically ready” for deployment in “two to three weeks” – but made it clear it was only one part of the strategy to emerge from lockdown and would involve a none-too-subtle marketing campaign.
For now, the basic version of the contacts tracing app the NHSX is devising is not being designed to track location. Instead, it will use Bluetooth as a proxy for infection risk, with phones that come into proximity swapping pseudonymized identifiers that may later be uploaded to a central server to calculate infection risk related to a person’s contacts.
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Mr Gould told the committee there was a false dichotomy, where decentralised was seen as private and centralised was not.
And the NHS approach “allows you to do certain important things that you couldn’t do if it was just phone-to-phone propagation”.
For example, it would be easier:
- to spot people falsely claiming to have virus symptoms so their friends would have to self-isolate
- once someone had received a negative test result, to tell people advised to self-isolate because they had been in proximity with them to go out again
Meanwhile, Prof Christophe Fraser, whose advice has been crucial to the app’s design, told the committee only a centralised approach would give epidemiologists visibility into how effective the app was proving to be and the means to calibrate it further.
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