UK-chosen COVID-19 control app raises privacy concerns

UK-chosen COVID-19 control app raises privacy concerns

The UK Government is finalizing the launch of its citizen contact control app, prepared to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to ensure a more secure exit from isolation. However, the app is generating controversy among experts, as it opted for its own solution, instead of being based on the API that Apple and Google created together, raising questions about their privacy, security, and even if it will actually work properly between new iPhone and Android smartphones.

To test the application, the Isle of Wight was chosen, and if everything goes as planned, the rest of the British territory will also use the system. According to Business Insider, after users download the application, the smartphone is assigned a numeric identification, followed by the registration of the first half of the postal code and the equipment model. Daily, the smartphone produces a random identification, which will be communicated, via Bluetooth, with other equipment nearby, which also have the app installed.

Smartphones will be in constant communication, sending their identification, when users travel, and receiving from other people. Whenever the app detects another person nearby, it records the proximity event. Users can register in the app any symptoms they have or even if they are diagnosed as positive for the disease. The app will then consult that user's proximity event logs and alert health services with information from other smartphones that may have crossed over the last 14 days and that may be at risk.

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It is explained that, from the moment the user submits the information, all who are notified will also be submitted to the servers of the National Health Service. Experts say that when using Bluetooth signals to generate proximity data, instead of GPS systems to monitor people's location, the app does not work as expected and may jeopardize users' anonymity.