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UK Government Ditches Contact-tracing App, Adopts Apple and Google Model

The UK government decided to work with tech titans Apple and Google to develop a contact-tracing app that can track COVID-19 cases in the country. The government had original plans to create an app of this sort that is “centralized” and local, but backed out and opted to use the more privacy-focused system that Apple and Google had developed. Experts had previously warned that the government’s app wouldn’t work because it was not supported by Apple/Google framework.

UK Government Ditches Contact-tracing App, Adopts Apple and Google Model
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The embarrassing U-turn came after the app failed to recognize all Android and iPhone devices during the testing period. It managed to identify 75% of Android handsets and just 4% of Apple phones. The government had spent three months and millions of pounds on the technology before abandoning the model. Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed that the NHS app could have been a success if it weren’t for Apple’s restrictions on third-party apps.

“Apple software prevents iPhones being used effectively for contact tracing unless you're using Apple's own technology," he said. "Our app won't work because Apple won't change that system…”

Although testings were disappointing in recognizing devices, there was a silver lining as the app was successful at estimating the distance between two users. Meanwhile, the Google-Apple model identified 99% of both Android and iPhone devices but was poor when calculating the distance between users. According to the trial findings, it could not distinguish (in some cases) between a phone in a user's pocket one meter away and a phone in a user's hand three meters away.

As a result, Hancock said that the government seeks to combine some of the technology from its own app with Google and Apple’s solution. He added that it would also share the algorithms and the progress on distance measuring with both companies.

“This is an important step, allowing us to develop an app that will bring together the functionality required to carry out contact tracing, but also making it easy to order tests, and access proactive advice and guidance to aid self-isolation,” the government said in a press release.

How Contact-tracing Apps Work

Governments across the globe jumped at developing contact-tracing apps to track, and ultimately curb, the spread of the Coronavirus. Their job is to keep records of any meeting that takes place in close proximity between people. Then, if one individual is later diagnosed with the virus, the app will alert the users who contacted him/her to get tested or self-isolate. The app uses smartphones’ Bluetooth technology to measure the distance between people.

Now, in terms of privacy and security, the Apple-Google model is a much safer option because it executes the procedure on the devices. That makes it difficult for the authorities and cybercriminals to breach user data and exploit it. Meanwhile, the government’s “centralized” version would have stored records on an NHS database, allowing better tracking and data analysis.

If you wish to know more about online security and privacy, check out websites like TheVPN.Guru that report the latest trends and offer guides to the best privacy tools, such as VPNs.

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UK Government Ditches Contact-tracing App, Adopts Apple and Google Model