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UK to Use Apple-Google API in NHS Contact Tracing App

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The UK's NHS has confirmed plans to use Apple's contact tracing technology in an upcoming app that will warn users if they've recently been in contact with someone suspected to be infected with coronavirus (via BBC News).


Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock, who announced the move at the government's daily pandemic press briefing, said the NHS was "working closely with the world's leading tech companies" on the initiative.

Apple and Google are working together on Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world. Apple says that user privacy and security will be central to the design of the project.

The BBC reports that the British health service's digital innovation unit, NHSX, wasn't aware of the project before it was announced on Friday, but now plans to integrate the technology into its app.

Doing so should mean the NHS app won't have to use workarounds to keep monitoring the signals even when the app is not being used.

The basic idea behind the app is that people who have self-diagnosed as having coronavirus will be able to declare their status in the app, which will then send an alert to anyone who has recently been close to them for an extended period of time.
"If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus, you can securely tell this new NHS app," Hancock explained.

"And the app will then send an alert anonymously to other app users that you've been in significant contact with over the past few days, even before you had symptoms, so that they know and can act accordingly.

"All data will be handled according to the highest ethical and security standards, and would only be used for NHS care and research.

"And we won't hold it any longer than is needed."
According to the report, a pre-release version of the software will be tested with families at a secure location in the North of England next week.

Article Link: UK to Use Apple-Google API in NHS Contact Tracing App
 
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delta0

macrumors 6502
Sep 1, 2018
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London
Reading this article it implies it is going to be an added functionality to an existing NHS app. Is this the case or will it be a new app?
 
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ensee

macrumors member
Apr 14, 2005
93
9
The existing NHS app has a pretty lengthy sign up process. You need to submit ID and GP details etc which are manually checked. I think it takes about 10 days to get a reply at the moment. And then it doesn’t work in the other home nations.

Still, hopefully we can get health records into the Health app soon. It should be easy for Apple to deal with one healthcare agency.
 
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rjp1

macrumors 6502
Mar 27, 2015
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The opt-in nature of it means that participation will probably be low. I’d rather it be opt out or hopefully a continual nag to get you to opt in.

Will they put out an update for all iPhones or just ones that can run the latest version?

What about the holdouts of previous versions like iOS 12? If they don’t give those people a patch, then they are unlikely to install it.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think this will be as useful as it should be.
 
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delta0

macrumors 6502
Sep 1, 2018
275
84
London
The opt-in nature of it means that participation will probably be low. I’d rather it be opt out or hopefully a continual nag to get you to opt in.

Will they put out an update for all iPhones or just ones that can run the latest version?

Also, what about the holdouts of previous versions like iOS 12? If they don’t give those people a patch, then they are unlikely to install it.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think this being as useful as it should be.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some enforcement if the take up number isn’t high enough. Like making it a condition of leaving the house. They could check people are using it by putting Bluetooth monitors in places like stations, offices etc.
 
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FrankieTDouglas

macrumors 68000
Mar 10, 2005
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How about no? And let's just stop opening the gate to even more widespread tracking?

You can opt-in NOW. But we've also seen how quickly every government has flexed on eliminating even the most basic of rights, with some countries arresting people even for jogging. There's absolutely zero trust that this app won't end up being abused.
 
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ruka.snow

macrumors 6502a
Jun 6, 2017
904
2,519
Scotland
This is England's NHS, it does not apply to other nations. NHS Scotland has not announced they will be doing anything of the sort(At time of writing).
 
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delta0

macrumors 6502
Sep 1, 2018
275
84
London
The existing NHS app has a pretty lengthy sign up process. You need to submit ID and GP details etc which are manually checked. I think it takes about 10 days to get a reply at the moment. And then it doesn’t work in the other home nations.

Still, hopefully we can get health records into the Health app soon. It should be easy for Apple to deal with one healthcare agency.
I just registered for this and it says it takes up to 5 hours to do the check now.
 
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LondonChris

macrumors newbie
Apr 13, 2020
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How about no? And let's just stop opening the gate to even more widespread tracking?

You can opt-in NOW. But we've also seen how quickly every government has flexed on eliminating even the most basic of rights, with some countries arresting people even for jogging. There's absolutely zero trust that this app won't end up being abused.

Contact tracing is, by its very nature, highly invasive. But it's highly necessary right now. Without using technology like this, less efficient 'old style' contact tracing will happen anyway - and that data will sit on the same servers as this data will. So really don't think you've got much to lose by opting in.
 
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Futurix

macrumors 6502
Nov 22, 2011
491
512
London
How about no? And let's just stop opening the gate to even more widespread tracking?

You can opt-in NOW. But we've also seen how quickly every government has flexed on eliminating even the most basic of rights, with some countries arresting people even for jogging. There's absolutely zero trust that this app won't end up being abused.
Ah yes, the slippery slope argument - the reason to never do anything new.

Your rights aren't eliminated - they are temporarily suspended, for a very good reason. Jogging is still allowed in most locations, with the arrests usually related to it being used as a cover-up to avoid restrictions for other activity (and frankly, it boggles my mind that jogging is still allowed - rapid movement combined with rapid breathing and large amount of perspiration sounds like a super-spreading risk to me!).

Apple's participation sounds like a reasonable guarantee of decent privacy here. And if you'll look at the technologies involved - it will be impossible to hijack that for sinister purposes.
 
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Mitthrawnuruodo

Moderator emeritus
Mar 10, 2004
14,089
596
Bergen, Norway
“Any project that does not use random, temporary identifiers is junk”

https://www.wired.co.uk/.../coronavirus-tracing-apps-privacy

Here in Norway they started making an app before the new API is ready, and that app is dependent on gathering all data in a centralised database for 30 days+ - in other words: a privacy nightmare; and an over engineered solution that looks lika a nightmare to maintain...

In Singapore they went with a solution using bluetooth, witch at the time was less than ideal because IOS users had to have the app on and in the foreground all the time, but that app _should_ be very easy to change to the new API.
 
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DoctorTech

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Jan 6, 2014
701
1,803
Indianapolis, IN
How about no? And let's just stop opening the gate to even more widespread tracking?

You can opt-in NOW. But we've also seen how quickly every government has flexed on eliminating even the most basic of rights, with some countries arresting people even for jogging. There's absolutely zero trust that this app won't end up being abused.
Agreed. This article does a great job explaining my attitude on the use of such technology...
 
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kyjaotkb

macrumors 6502a
Nov 20, 2009
695
398
London, UK
The UK government has been promising mass testing and sufficient PPE as well. None has materialized. They seem to be improvising and focusing on PR announcements first, while never meeting their objectives, which is very scary. This new NHS app appears to be potentially another promise, so why not bolt-on a new technology that caught them by surprise and that nobody has seen in action yet...
 
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frumpy16

macrumors 65816
Dec 8, 2008
1,080
827
What would stop someone from “self identifying” they have corona just to be a troll or as a dumb joke? I wouldn’t want to be getting these notices and subjected to the accompanying restrictions unless the diagnosis was validated by a doctor first.
 
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StevieD100

macrumors 6502a
Jan 18, 2014
659
947
Living Dangerously in Retirement
Sorry Officer, I left my phone at home/in the car/etc.

I don't have BT enabled on any of my devices so... what then eh?
Most of the time I'm out, WiFi is also disabled.
Will it show that if someone in the next house (i.e. on the other side of the wall and literally a few feet away from me) has the virus, I'm gonna get it?
 
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FrankieTDouglas

macrumors 68000
Mar 10, 2005
1,553
2,874
Agreed. This article does a great job explaining my attitude on the use of such technology...

Exactly this. Meanwhile, there are people out there like those below, who show how easily some people willingly and eagerly give up their privacy. Almost using the standard script for every time some "emergency action" has to be taken against "some enemy" that leaves us with less and less freedom and privacy in the aftermath. This particular story pertains to the UK, which already has one of the most vast CCT networks in the world. How short of a reign do people want to be kept on? At least China had to run over their own citizens with tanks and seize it by force. Now, we have people applauding for such a regime.

Contact tracing is, by its very nature, highly invasive. But it's highly necessary right now. Without using technology like this, less efficient 'old style' contact tracing will happen anyway - and that data will sit on the same servers as this data will. So really don't think you've got much to lose by opting in.
Ah yes, the slippery slope argument - the reason to never do anything new.

Your rights aren't eliminated - they are temporarily suspended, for a very good reason. Jogging is still allowed in most locations, with the arrests usually related to it being used as a cover-up to avoid restrictions for other activity (and frankly, it boggles my mind that jogging is still allowed - rapid movement combined with rapid breathing and large amount of perspiration sounds like a super-spreading risk to me!).

Apple's participation sounds like a reasonable guarantee of decent privacy here. And if you'll look at the technologies involved - it will be impossible to hijack that for sinister purposes.
 
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simonmet

Cancelled
Sep 9, 2012
2,666
3,656
Sydney
Yeah...nah! This is bound to be used as evidence that you didn’t socially-isolate adequately. How long before use of the app is required or forced upon users? If Apple and the notoriously privacy-averse and arch-enemy Google get together on something that raises eyebrows and suspicions in my view.

Social distancing and lockdowns are already working; and most people are complying. I don’t see how this functionality would further change behaviour or prevent infections, but simply result in a blame game and the opportunity for authorities to penalise individuals. Sufficient (mass) testing and available care is a better approach than creepy tracking, but that requires a level of competence and investment from governments, so better to blame the individual right?

At least in my country new infection cases have been dropping from a peak of 457 to less than 50 (37) per day due to social isolation with further declines anticipated; and they’re already talking about lifting the lockdown within weeks.

This functionality, were it to become widespread and used for purposes other than those stated, is alarming. And once the technology is developed you can be damn sure the NSA, police and governments will be very interested in it. Further, we know that they don’t have to disclose if or when they start to use the technique.

Apple and Google can claim privacy all they want, but the whole point of the technology is to allow you to notify contacts, so it can’t be anonymised completely! Perhaps I’m too much of an optimist to think we’ve got any semblance of privacy left, but I’m always going to argue against even further monitoring and tracking than already exists. Its benefits are always overstated in comparison to the risks in my opinion.
 
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VulchR

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2009
2,403
11,885
Scotland
Makes sense ... for now. Besides, when has the UK undertaken a complex IT project that actually worked? No need to get knickers in a twist about tracking. Google etc. are far worse offenders than the UK government will ever be.
 
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twistedpixel8

macrumors 6502
Jun 9, 2017
417
1,244
Ah yes, the slippery slope argument - the reason to never do anything new.

Your rights aren't eliminated - they are temporarily suspended, for a very good reason. Jogging is still allowed in most locations, with the arrests usually related to it being used as a cover-up to avoid restrictions for other activity (and frankly, it boggles my mind that jogging is still allowed - rapid movement combined with rapid breathing and large amount of perspiration sounds like a super-spreading risk to me!).

Apple's participation sounds like a reasonable guarantee of decent privacy here. And if you'll look at the technologies involved - it will be impossible to hijack that for sinister purposes.

Thank you! Finally, someone who agrees that runners are an issue and should be told to do their running somewhere isolated and away from other people. I’ve tried to politely explain this to runners and all I get back is “there’s no evidence to say heavy breathing is a transmission vector” or a tirade of abusive language.

It’s like far too many people can’t think for themselves anymore.
 
Comment

LondonChris

macrumors newbie
Apr 13, 2020
4
14
Exactly this. Meanwhile, there are people out there like those below, who show how easily some people willingly and eagerly give up their privacy. Almost using the standard script for every time some "emergency action" has to be taken against "some enemy" that leaves us with less and less freedom and privacy in the aftermath. This particular story pertains to the UK, which already has one of the most vast CCT networks in the world. How short of a reign do people want to be kept on? At least China had to run over their own citizens with tanks and seize it by force. Now, we have people applauding for such a regime.

My point, with respect, is that contact tracing is going to happen anyway. Has happened for years, will continue to for years for any notifiable disease that's a threat to public health.

Indeed, I was subject to it when I got a notifiable disease a decade ago. It's deeply unpleasant, highly intrusive but necessary to limit spread. You speak about 'giving up privacy' - in that instance, I was legally obliged to share who I'd been in contact with while infectious. It's not new.

Your choice - and it is your choice as the tanks aren't charging towards you yet - is simply whether to use technology to make it more effective.
 
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Eagle_Eye

macrumors member
Oct 10, 2017
34
69
Netherlands
The opt-in nature of it means that participation will probably be low. I’d rather it be opt out or hopefully a continual nag to get you to opt in.

Will they put out an update for all iPhones or just ones that can run the latest version?
Why track people and inform them after they had been in contact with a corona infected person, when we can tag corona patients with a tag (maybe a corona star) on their jacket or maybe a tattoo corona-ID on the for-arm?

I’d rather be safe then sorry.
 
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djbeav

macrumors newbie
Feb 18, 2020
4
3
What would stop someone from “self identifying” they have corona just to be a troll or as a dumb joke? I wouldn’t want to be getting these notices and subjected to the accompanying restrictions unless the diagnosis was validated by a doctor first.
That's a good question. I've been following the development of this system through MIT's news releases for a couple of weeks, and the mechanism for identifying as positive involved receiving a QR code from a doctor (or testing agency). That mechanism may be evolved during rollout of the system, but this issue (and many others) have been considered.
 
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Metrosey

macrumors 6502
Oct 18, 2019
393
412
This particular story pertains to the UK, which already has one of the most vast CCT networks in the world.

I’d actually disagree, there are quite a few other countries with more CCTV cameras overall and a couple with a higher amount per every 100 people. The US has more cameras per every 100 people than China. Currently, the UK and Japan has the same number of cameras overall.

In the UK a lot of the cameras are not man monitored but switch on when required.

I’d personally prefer a more intrusive way of monitoring with cameras, using a weaker China system. For example, using AI and face identification, too many times a crime has been committed where only a partial face can be seen on a camera. Using AI and face identification would be easier, cheaper and faster for police to produce an accurate report, while also being a deterrent for individuals. Yes I can hear you saying ‘but they’ll just put on a mask and we normal citizens will lose are freedom’. I know, for large scale crimes it will likely occur, but for small scale or daylight crimes, it will likely help. Furthermore, as it’s an automated process, there wouldn’t be someone monitoring it constantly.
 
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