UK’s NHS not to use Apple’s APIs for new COVID-19 tracing app
The UK’s National Health Service has announced it won’t be using the new privacy-focused APIs developed in a join partnership between Apple and Google in its forthcoming COVID-19 tracing app, instead opting to use its own centralised system to collect more data on users, reports the BBC.
Apple’s COVID-19 tracing APIs, which are set to be released in beta to developers tomorrow, will utilise Bluetooth technology to alert users when they have been in contact with somebody who has tested positive with the coronavirus. The system would not store data on a server and all personal information is kept private.
The centralised system intended to be used by the NHS, in contrast, will send user data to a server over the internet, where a it will then be automatically analysed to determine if a user has been in close proximity with somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The app will constantly be sending information from the device to the government’s servers, which will undoubtedly raise concerns over user privacy. Additionally, unlike the APIs developed by Apple and Google, the NHS’s method will put a heavy strain on a device’s battery life.
The NHS argue that a centralised system will offer greater insight into the spread of the virus in the country.
One of the advantages is that it’s easier to audit the system and adapt it more quickly as scientific evidence accumulates, Prof Christophe Fraser, one of the epidemiologists advising NHSX, told the BBC. The principal aim is to give notifications to people who are most at risk of having got infected, and not to people who are much lower risk.
Apple has previously aided the NHS by promoting the official health service app in the App Store, and by sharing a PSA from Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.