Coronavirus: Scotland refuses to join NHS contact tracking application


Fears were expressed today that the new NHS coronavirus contact tracking app only works halfway on iPhones after experts said it could only work effectively on devices if the screen was unlocked.

The “NHS Covid-19” app is a key part of the UK government’s plan to get the country out of the lockdown and get back to work and will need at least 60% of the nation to download it for it to be effective.

But residents of the Isle of Wight participated in the trial, claiming that it had drained their phone’s battery and only worked if the screen was unlocked – because iPhones can do nothing but listen other devices when locked.

Dr. Michael Veale, professor of digital rights and regulatory affairs at University College London, told MailOnline that the app “only works halfway on iPhones”.

He added: “This is because the UK has decided, unlike countries like Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Estonia and more, not to use the new decentralized building blocks that Apple is providing in its new iOS 13.5 operating system next week.

“In particular, iPhones can only” listen “when they are locked, not to reach other phones. To talk to another phone and record a contact, they need a phone that can turn them on and wake them up, or they won’t spot them.

“When two iPhone users are together because they only listen to both, no contact will be made or saved. Only if there is an Android phone nearby can the phones be pushed to “wake up”.

The same problem was encountered by Singapore, which was the first country to try a contact search application. TraceTogether only won a 20% stake, with many users finding that their iPhone needs to be unlocked for it to work properly.

Another tech expert, Timandra Harkness, author of Big Data: Does Size Matter ?, told The New Statesman that the app “wouldn’t work with the phone locked or while you’re using it for something else.”

She added that a friend in Singapore had found this to be a problem with the TraceTogether app, which meant that “you have to leave it on and …” backwards “in your pocket to enter Low Power mode. “

If a person with the application reports symptoms of Covid-19, a risk score for an interaction is calculated based on the distance between the devices, the duration of their contact and the infectivity of the person at the time.

This comes as the Scottish government hammered the health secretary Matt Hancock’s app after saying it would only engage in technology if it worked and was secure.

Nicola Sturgeon said she was “cautious” about the application and noted that Scotland’s approach to stopping the spread of the disease would be more “old fashioned”. Meanwhile, Professor Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director for Scotland, said he would only download the app “once I know it will work” and “safety is good”.

In addition, it turned out that London-based artificial intelligence company Faculty, which is involved in the development of the app, has been hired to work with Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign.

NHS worker Anni Adams watches the new NHS app on her phone on the Isle of Wight today

NHS worker Anni Adams watches the new NHS app on her phone on the Isle of Wight today

People eligible for the app will receive a download link when it becomes available so they can start using

It will be based on people who state precisely whether they are sick or not, or whether their test is positive. Contacts will be advised to self-isolate while someone is being tested

Those eligible for the app will receive a download link when it is available so they can start using it. It will rely on people who state precisely whether they are sick or not, or whether their test is positive. Contacts will be advised to self-isolate while someone is being tested

In other developments of the battle for coronaviruses in the UK today:

What problems are people reporting with the app?

  • Concerns about the application that drains the battery life on the phone
  • Fear it will only work when your screen is unlocked
  • Confidentiality concerns about location data collection
  • Fear that the elderly cannot use it
  • Claims it does not meet NHS cybersecurity levels
  • The British could spend four days working at the office and the next ten working at home as part of radical new plans presented to the government today.
  • Last night, 436 other people were confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in England, Scotland and Wales, killing 29,000 and making Britain the most affected nation in Europe;
  • Scientist nicknamed “Professor Lockdown” who convinced Boris Johnson to impose a halt to coronavirus left government after it was revealed that he was flouting the restrictions he helped develop by scheduling appointments you secrets with her married lover;
  • The Minister of Foreign Affairs dashed hopes of a widespread return to school after mid-session, warning that it was too early to consider this decision;
  • Nicola Sturgeon has once again taken precedence over Westminster by revealing Scotland’s provisional “exit strategy” from the coronavirus lockdown. The Prime Minister released a 27-page plan on how the release could happen north of the border, days before the Prime Minister released his “road map” on Sunday.

If Scotland refuses to recommend the app, it will undoubtedly jeopardize the British government’s efforts to reach the 60% threshold.

He has come in the midst of growing concerns about the operation of the app and the data it will collect with experts warning Mr. Hancock that it is “almost inevitable” that he will face a court challenge.

Civil liberties activists and lawyers are calling on the government to legislate to restrict how the data collected by the app can be used.

Some fear that the lack of regulation could lead to data on the movement of people possibly being used to identify anyone who does not respect the rules of social distancing so that they can be punished.

The British government has insisted that the so-called “epidemiology of leather for shoes” will be part of its “test, track and trace” program with 18,000 employees who should be recruited – but the application will be an integral part of its success .

It began testing on the Isle of Wight this week with a view to rolling it out nationwide in the coming months.

Willoughby Matthews, 21, of Cowes, who now has the app on Android, told MailOnline: “I downloaded the app last night, so far so good.

Countries that have adopted the Apple-Google Covid-19 tracking application “not compatible” with NHS own software

  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Swiss
  • Austria
  • Estonia
  • Ireland
  • US should use it – but no final decision has been made yet

“It had a slight effect on the battery life, but not as bad as I expected. It’s pretty user-friendly, once downloaded, you just insert the first part of your zip code, then you’re asked to give location permissions.

“Bluetooth should stay on all the time, if you try to turn it on, you get a warning message, which is a little annoying, but you get used to it. There’s not much you can do about it other than pressing the “I don’t feel good” button, so I would say it’s very user-friendly. “

The proportion of Apple IOS to Android users in Britain is around 50:50, while 75% of people who responded to a survey in Island Echo said they intended to download the application.

The population of the Isle of Wight is around 140,000, which means that over 100,000 people could download it.

Omar Lakhssassi, a resident of the Isle of Wight, told LBC News: “This has caused a bit of mixed opinion on social media here on the Isle of Wight.

“Many people, including myself, are very happy to download this app and try to make a difference in the recording of the data so that the government can track and trace people with symptoms of Covid-19.

“I hope this will allow us to break the deadlock sooner than later at the national level.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, pictured arriving at Downing Street in London today, began testing a contact finder application on the Isle of Wight this week.

Secretary of Health Matt Hancock, pictured arriving at Downing Street in London today, began testing a contact search app on the Isle of Wight this week.

“However, some people are quite questionable – they fear their privacy is being violated and are very vocal on social media, saying they will not download this app.

Experts fear the tracking and location app will be hijacked by trolls

New NHS coronavirus tracking and tracing application could be hijacked by trolls determined to “wreak havoc for malicious pleasure”, people more likely to ignore self-isolation warnings if “false alerts” Were spreading, experts warned today.

The UK app is currently the only app in the world to allow a self-reporting feature – allowing users to raise alerts to others by reporting symptoms.

In the first version of the app, if a member of the public does not feel well with the symptoms of Covid-19, they use the app to notify the NHS – and will trigger an anonymous “yellow” alert for other users with which he came into meaningful contact with. contact in the past few days.

A so-called red alert will follow a week later if a medical test confirms that the original user is infected and tells him that he must isolate himself. The original user will need to enter a PIN code provided by the NHS to trigger the red alert.

Several experts have warned that yellow alerts triggered by the user could collapse public confidence in the app in the event of a “crying wolf” outbreak.

Since the app does not identify users, there will be no way to punish those who trigger false alarms.

“Personally, I have no problem downloading the application, after reading the instructions, it is very anonymous, it does not ask for my personal information, it does not ask for my name, my e-mail address or even my number phone.

“He just asks for the first four digits of my postal code and just asks three simple questions about how I feel.

“And I think if the symptoms are compatible with the coronavirus, it will alert me to a test and hopefully it will limit the impact I will have on other residents of the Isle of Wight.

And Oliver Dyer, of the Isle of Wight radio, told the BBC: “We have a high elderly population here, people who don’t have an iPhone, and they have expressed concerns about how they are supposed to download the app, how they are supposed to get behind this scheme. “

The app, developed by NHSX, works using Bluetooth which records every time someone is within two meters of someone else for more than 15 minutes.

People will be asked to notify the NHS when they develop symptoms of coronavirus and at this point, the data collected by the app will be used to contact everyone close to the infected person in the past few weeks.

The government insisted that all data be completely anonymized, Hancock dismissing claims that the app could open the door to “ubiquitous state surveillance.” He said it was “completely wrong”.

But the health secretary faces a tough battle to win critics after the UK has taken a different route to other European countries.

The UK app will see the contact details held centrally by the NHS, with ministers arguing that this will speed up the tracking portion of the program so that people can be tested quickly.

But Nicola Sturgeon, pictured in Edinburgh yesterday, refused to commit to adopting the application in Scotland

But Nicola Sturgeon, pictured in Edinburgh yesterday, refused to commit in Scotland to adopt the app

But other European countries are using decentralized apps, one of which is supported by Google and Apple, which see phones communicating directly with each other.

How is the NHS tracking application different from the one created by Apple and Google?

The application technologies developed by Google / Apple and the NHS are based on the same principle – they keep track of the people with whom someone came into close contact – but the way they store data is the main difference. The NHS stores information in a centralized database, while the Google / Apple application is decentralized.

NHS application: lists on NHS servers

The NHSX application creates an alert whenever two users of the application are within Bluetooth range of each other and save it to the user’s phone.

Each person will essentially make a list of all the people with whom they have been in “contact”. This will be anonymized so that the lists will actually be only numbers or codes, not lists of names or addresses.

If a person is diagnosed with coronavirus or reports symptoms, all users of the application they were close to during the time they were considered infectious – this will vary from person to person – will receive an alert informing him that he has been put at risk of COVID-19 – but he will not name the person who has been diagnosed.

NHSX insists that it will delete people’s data when they get rid of the app.

Apple / Google: content on phones

In the decentralized approach of Apple and Google, meanwhile, the server and list item for this process is removed and the entire log is contained in someone’s phone.

This application works by exchanging a digital “token” with each phone that someone is within Bluetooth range over a fixed period.

If a person develops symptoms of the coronavirus or is positive, they can enter this information in the application.

The phone will then send a notification to all devices with which they have exchanged tokens during the infection window, to inform people that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The server database will not be necessary since each phone will keep an individual log of Bluetooth profiles with which someone has been close. These will then be linked anonymously to people’s NHS applications and alerts can be transmitted through this even after the person is out of Bluetooth range.

It is understood that if someone later deletes the Google / Apple application and closes their account, their data will be deleted.

Will the NHS benefit from central data?

If the NHS collects the data, it may be able to use it as part of larger contact tracing efforts as well as detect local outbreaks using location data.

In the future, if someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, members of an army of 18,000 “contact tracers” will be responsible for determining who else this patient has come into contact with and is at risk. .

It is not known to what extent human contact tracers will have access to the data collected via the application.

Experts believe that this approach is less likely to face a court challenge because the data is not stored centrally.

The attorneys told the Telegraph that the British app offers “much more interference with user privacy” and, therefore, will require “more justification”.

They argued that the government had not yet justified its approach and that it was “almost inevitable” that legal action would be taken against it with the potential for a long legal battle.

The fact that the United Kingdom has chosen a different path from that of many other European countries has raised fears that the different systems are incompatible.

This could cause the British to quarantine themselves unnecessarily for 14 days when traveling to another country.

But Hancock said misunderstandings about privacy concerns with the UK contact finder make it more difficult to fight coronavirus.

Amnesty International UK was among the voices to share their fears that privacy and rights could become another victim of the virus through the app, while a group of British academics working in the field of cybersecurity, privacy and the law recently signed a joint letter saying this could open the door to surveillance once the pandemic is over.

The government has refuted these suggestions, saying the data is kept on a person’s smartphone and can only be shared with the NHS if the person decides, if they have symptoms and request a test.

Speaking to Sky News, the Secretary of Health expressed concern that the app could follow people as “wrong” and “not based on what’s going on in the app.”

“I have yet to see a privacy-based review that is accurate or based on a real understanding of what the app is doing, so if anyone … has these concerns or offers to write about them, I would suggest that he go see what the app actually does before you do it, “he said.

“Because if you spread these kinds of stories and discourage people from downloading the app, then what you are doing is actually making it more difficult for us as a community to fight this virus.

“I am fairly robust in responding to these criticisms because we have taken the concerns into account. “

Hancock reiterated that an ethics advisory committee will oversee the application, and there are plans to publish a data protection and source code impact assessment for public review.

One of the main problems was the decision to adopt a centralized approach, which means that when a person chooses to share their data, it is sent to a computer server anonymously, instead of staying between smartphones, called decentralized.

Professor Michael Parker, a member of the Sage government advisory group and NHS advisor on the application, told BBC Radio 4 Today: “The advantage of a centralized system is that we want our system to health is consistent, we want it to work. in a way that is intelligent.

“And we want the NHS to take control. I don’t think we want our healthcare system to be run by tech companies in a potentially disconnected way.

“I would say that we really want an integrated system that is centralized but carefully managed and in an approach that processes patient information in a way that is properly depersonalized. “

Former Labor Party deputy leader Harriet Harman called for legislation to protect the privacy of those who use the NHS coronavirus application.

UK now has more confirmed deaths from COVID-19 - according to backdated statistics from the Office for National Statistics, National Records Scotland and Northern Ireland NISRA - than any other country in Europe

UK now has more confirmed deaths from COVID-19 – according to backdated statistics from the Office for National Statistics, National Records Scotland and Northern Ireland NISRA – than any other country in Europe

Meanwhile, there are also concerns that the UK app will be abused as it depends on people who report symptoms.

An artificial intelligence company involved in the application worked with Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign

An artificial intelligence company involved in the NHS application has been hired to work with Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign, it emerged.

The London-based firm Faculty has also won at least seven government contracts worth nearly £ 1 million in just 18 months.

Cabinet Office Minister Theodore Agnew has a £ 90,000 stake in the company – and its managing director Marc Warner attended a meeting of the Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (Sage).

The project is managed by the NHSX and the data analysis company Palantir as well as by the faculty.

The faculty has previously provided data science services to the Vote Leave campaign, which Mr. Cummings led before becoming senior advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Experts say mischievous students may mistakenly report symptoms to close schools, or disgruntled workers may do the same to try to close businesses.

Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, said, “Someone might feel like they are fed up with their boss and want to be in trouble so they declare themselves and have half their hand fired -work at home to isolate yourself. . ‘

Lawyers also fear that the app will not be supported by its own law.

Some civil liberties activists are concerned that the lack of regulation could lead to the misuse of data collected in the future.

For example, they fear that the data will be used to show who broke the rules of social distancing and that sanctions have subsequently been imposed.

Legal experts have introduced a bill that would establish “basic safeguards” on how the app could be used in the future.

These guarantees would include a guarantee that no one would be penalized for not having a phone, that they would have left their house without a phone, and that no one would be “forced” to install the application.

Concerns have been expressed about the security of the NHS holding such sensitive data since health services have previously been targeted by hackers.

How will the NHS contact tracking application work?

The NHS is rolling out its new coronavirus tracking and tracing application today for testing on the Isle of Wight. Here’s how it will work


Britons will be able to download the app for free from the Department of Health’s website.

It is also available at Apple and Android app stores or via a link sent by email to NHS and public sector employees.

It is currently being tested on the Isle of Wight before potential deployment across the country, possibly one region at a time.


To register, the person must provide the first half of their postal code, which tells the NHS the city or borough they live in – but not their name or exact address.

The user will be asked to authorize the app to use the phone’s Bluetooth to keep track of other phones nearby and for how long.

NHS insists it will not track location data – only phones

But while the government has said that “your postal code will not be used to track your location” – it is less clear whether this also means that your location will not be tracked at all.


The user will be asked to keep their phone and Bluetooth turned on at all times and the app will run in the background without doing anything.

The user will also be asked to allow “push notifications” – which allows the NHS to send messages to someone directly on their phone.

When a person goes out, the app keeps a log every time they are within Bluetooth range of another phone – but that person must also have the app.

All identifiers will be anonymous, each application being registered with a code rather than with a person or an address.


If someone becomes ill, they will be asked to log into the application and enter it. They will be asked if they have common symptoms of the coronavirus, such as high temperature and continuous cough.

Otherwise, nothing will happen. If so, they will be told to order a coronavirus test.


If this is a suspected coronavirus case, these symptoms and the anonymous identifiers of all phones the user came into contact with are automatically sent to an NHS server.

The NHS will analyze the data sent by the original victim using what he calls a “complex algorithm”. Although it is believed to be largely based on a distance between one and two meters and the duration, probably between ten and 15 minutes.


It will then alert users of the app who have been in “meaningful contact” with the original person with symptoms. For those who have been in contact with someone who has self-reported symptoms, the app will send a yellow alert.

In early versions of the app, this alerts the user that they have been in contact with someone who has reported symptoms.

If the original victim is positive, everyone with whom they have been in contact will receive a stronger “red” alert telling them to quarantine. The original victim triggers the red alert by entering a PIN code issued by the NHS after a positive test.

The health ministry has not revealed exactly what the alerts will say. The health ministry said, “The app will inform the public about what to do if a user is close to someone who has become symptomatic. Advice on what people should do can be adapted as the context and approach evolves. “

The app will calculate the risk of contact by measuring their exposure to the person with symptoms. It will measure exposure over time and proximity. NHS analysts will define the risk parameters that trigger the alerts.


L’application enverra à la personne d’origine des instructions sur les symptômes pour obtenir un test à l’aide du logiciel.

L’un des quelque 10 000 traceurs de contacts humains au Royaume-Uni peut également entrer en contact par téléphone et demander à l’utilisateur de l’application combien de personnes se trouvent dans leur ménage, où elles se trouvent et qui elles ont été proches, à leur connaissance, pour trouver des personnes qui peut ne pas avoir été capté par le bluetooth.

Ils essaieront également de contacter ces nouveaux contacts si nécessaire.


Une fois que le test Covid-19 arrivera au domicile de la personne, on s’attendra à ce qu’il le tamponne puis le remette dans le poste dans un centre de test du NHS. Ils peuvent également être admissibles à un test à domicile par un agent de santé ou visiter l’un des centres de test du pays. Le résultat devrait être disponible dans les 48 heures.

Il y a alors deux résultats possibles:

• La personne a un résultat négatif. Dans ce cas, vos contacts sont informés par un message qu’il s’agissait d’une fausse notification.

• La personne est positive. Dans ce cas, vos contacts sont invités à s’isoler pendant 14 jours et à les placer sur le chemin des tests cliniques.


L’armée des traceurs de contacts humains du NHS contactera les utilisateurs de l’application qui ont été en «contact significatif» avec la personne d’origine présentant des symptômes sera alertée via l’application. Ils recevront des «conseils de santé» – qui peuvent inclure l’auto-isolement – sur la base de l’évaluation par le NHS de leur niveau de risque. Toutes les personnes qui ont été en contact ne seront pas alertées sur la base de l’algorithme NHS. Ces conseils seront constamment modifiés par les médecins en fonction de la sutuation actuelle.

Si un point chaud de nouveaux cas émerge, les utilisateurs seront invités à prendre des mesures plus urgentes, comme rester à la maison ou même consulter un médecin. L’équipe de traçeurs de contacts du NHS contactera ensuite individuellement toutes les personnes qui ont été en contact avec la victime, soit via l’application, soit par d’autres moyens.


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