Police told not to download NHS Covid-19 app

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Par Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent

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The National Council of Chiefs of Police (NPCC) has confirmed officers have been ordered not to install the NHS Covid-19 app on their work smartphones.

The application detects when users are near a person infected with the virus.

Some agents have also been told that they may not need to obey the self-isolation alerts generated by the app while downloading to their home phone.

The Lancashire Constabulary has asked staff to call the force’s Covid-19 helpline instead.

The BBC contacted the North West England force after a source claimed the advice was given for “security reasons”.

The source also said officers were ordered not to carry their personal phones while on duty if they activated the app.

This applies to both staff working in public-oriented roles and those in back-office positions.

“The health and well-being of our officers, staff and the public remain our priority,” a Lancashire Police spokesperson later told the BBC.

“Staff members, like all members of the public, can personally download the Track and Trace app if they wish. Advice provided to staff in the workplace remains in line with the NPCC national position.

The NPCC has confirmed that the work phone policy is common to all forces and said it is giving the matter an urgent review.

“Police forces use a variety of mobile devices with different system restrictions,” a council spokesperson said.

“It is important that we are confident that the NHS app will work for officers and staff consistently across the country, and it is for this reason that we have recommended officers and staff download the app from their personal devices rather than on their work devices rather than any suggested safety implications. ”

The NPCC could abandon the policy as early as Tuesday.

legendMembers of the public are encouraged to download the app to protect themselves and others

NHS Covid-19 was launched last Thursday, since then it has been downloaded over 12 million times.

In addition to contact tracing, it also gives users a way to scan codes when they enter a building to log in, as well as a way to check for symptoms of the coronavirus and order a test. .

The NPCC had previously raised concerns about agents sharing information with human contact tracers on the grounds that it could compromise undercover work and other sensitive operations.

But since the app is designed to keep people’s identities a secret, that shouldn’t be a problem in this case.

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