UK soon ready to launch contact tracing app

The NHS says it will be launching a contact tracing app in the coming weeks to help control the Coronavirus pandemic.

The app will be part of a wider approach that will involve contact tracing and testing, NHSX, the NHS research arm says. The effectiveness of the app will depend on how many people will start using it. Once installed, it will automatically log the distance between your phone and other phones nearby that also have the app installed.

‘This anonymous log of how close you are to others will be stored securely on your phone. If you become unwell with symptoms of COVID-19, you can choose to allow the app to inform the NHS which, subject to sophisticated risk analysis, will trigger an anonymous alert to those other app users with whom you came into significant contact over the previous few days,’ NHSX says.

The data gathered will be accessible to NHS care, management, evaluation and research departments.

The app is being developed in consultation with the Information Commissioner, the National Data Guardian’s Panel and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, as well as with representatives from Understanding Patient Data and volunteers who provided a patient and public perspective.

An ICO spokesperson said:

“People must have trust and confidence in the way personal data is used to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The ICO also recognises the vital role that data can play in tracking the pandemic and the need to act urgently. We have been working with NHSX to help them ensure a high level of transparency and governance. We will continue to offer that support during the life of the app as it is developed, rolled out and when it is no longer needed.”