France, UK to test contact tracing apps without Apple and Google technology

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2020
As world governments scramble to contain the spread of COVID-19, France and the UK this week announced plans to begin testing digital contact tracing solutions developed without the aid of Apple and Google's exposure notification system.


Sample user interface elements for Apple and Google's COVID-19 Exposure Monitoring system.


The UK's Department of Health and Social Care in a press release Monday said the NHS COVID-19 App will roll out to Isle of Wight residents as part of the "test, track and trace" program.

NHS and council staff will be able to download the contact tracing app on Tuesday ahead of wide distribution on Thursday.

Designed to work in concert with "enhanced contact tracing services" and swab testing for residents showing COVID-19 symptoms, the app was developed by NHSX and a team of scientists and doctors.

Like other contact tracing apps in development by governments and private entities, the NHS method uses Bluetooth technology to track contact between smartphones and issue anonymous alerts should someone test positive for the virus. Those without smart devices can record recent contacts via an online portal or through telephone interviews.

Notably, the UK system relies on a centralized database to store patient information and as such is incompatible with an exposure notification platform created by Apple and Google. Decentralization is a core feature of the Apple-Google system, which relies on such measures to ensure anonymity and protect sensitive user information.

Without access to the cross-platform Exposure Notification API, which works across Android and iOS devices, apps that require Bluetooth communications typically suffer limited integration. Knowing this, the NHS has worked "phenomenally closely" with Apple and Google to ensure the COVID-19 App is fully functional, reports CNET.

NHSX CEO Matthew Gould in a Parliamentary committee meeting on Monday said privacy is "at the heart of the app" and noted the NHS is willing to shift to a decentralized solution if needed, the report said.

France, too, is adopting a centralized data approach with its "StopCOVID" app, scheduled to enter testing next week, reports Reuters.

Detailed by Minister for Digital Affairs Cedric O in a post to Medium, the app's methodology is nearly identical to the NHS COVID-19 App in that it logs anonymized Bluetooth interactions to monitor coronavirus spread and alert users to exposure.

It is unclear whether France is working with Apple and Google to overcome technological hurdles, specifically to address background access to a smartphone's communications stack, that would severely impact the app's utility. O previously asked Apple to lift the security barrier, but found the company was unwilling to cooperate on the matter.

"French health and technological sovereignty ... is the freedom for our country to be able to have the choice and not be constrained by the choices of a large company, however innovative and efficient it may be," O wrote on Medium.

While France and the UK are employing centralized tech at odds with Apple-Google standards, other countries are more willing to work with the tech giants to gain access to what is expected to be a powerful coronavirus monitoring and mitigation platform. Germany, for example, was originally opposed to the exposure notification system, but late last month changed its stance on the issue and moved toward rollout of a decentralized framework. America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also appears to to be mostly aligned with Apple and Google in its guidelines for contact tracing technology.

Apple and Google are forging ahead with their joint project and last week issued a beta version of the API to developers as part of iOS 13.5. On Monday, the companies released coding resources like sample user interfaces for developers creating apps for health authorities.

Additional requirements were also delivered with the new code, including provisions that prohibit apps from accessing user location data and a restriction that limits PHAs to one app per country, the latter of which is designed "to promote high user adoption and avoid fragmentation."

After the API rolls out, Apple and Google plan to integrate the exposure notification system into their respective mobile operating systems, a move that should increase accuracy while reducing battery load.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    NHSX CEO Matthew Gould in a Parliamentary committee meeting on Monday said privacy is "at the heart of the app" and noted the NHS is willing to shift to a decentralized solution if needed, the report said. 

    Sounds to me like they're getting ready for a quiet climbdown off the high horse.  



    PetrolDavewatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    PetrolDavePetrolDave Posts: 52member
    Many forums I am active on have members who say they do not trust the U.K. NHS to keep a centralised database secure, so will NOT be downloading the NHS app unless and until it switches to the decentralised Apple/Google model.
    jbdragonjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 16
    I’ll be downloading this as soon as it’s available as I completely trust the UK government...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    isidoreisidore Posts: 56member
    So do I. I’ll download it onto my spare phone that I’ll keep safely plugged in at home. 
    tobianuraharajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 16
    NHS IT investment has been a masterclass in how to fritter taxpayer money and fill the pockets of Non-governmental private enterprise. As such I would never trust my medical data to a centralised database.
    jony0seanjwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 16
    tobiantobian Posts: 134member
    So does it mean this NHS thing have to be sideloaded like an enterprise app? Or is this so called "phenomenal closeness" just a fact Apple has granted 3rd party app an exception in bacground sensory usage and processing? This should be allowed only thru Apples own API for this purpose. And, IMHO, danger of COVID-19 is only in our compromised immune systems, which is treatable by systematic vitamin supply. This pandemic is brilliant excuse for beginning of peoples tracking experiments (and easying collective consent).
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 16
    hodarhodar Posts: 348member
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."- Benjamin Franklin

    ~60% of the population will be asymptomatic.  An overwhelming majority of those who do get sick will experience a mild cold with a dry cough.  Those who do get sick, and need hospitalization, we now have a protocol and treatment regiment that is shown to be effective.  An overwhelming number of those who have died, died from contributing factors that COVID was essentially blamed for.  Shot in the head, but had COVID, you are listed as a COVID death.  The bullet was just a contributing factor, as is Cancer, Heart attacks, compromised Pulminary System, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

    Its NEVER going away - it's a virus, just like Chickenpox.  Hiding from it will not make it disappear.  Don't blame me, I didn't make it in a lab, I didn't deny it's existence, I didn't kill those who talked about it, I didn't ship my citizens out to every developed country on the planet.

    Hiding from it, does NOT build herd immunity.  You will be exposed to it, if you haven't already, you will.  If you haven't had it already, you likely will.  It's highly contagious - but not nearly as deadly as it's been promoted to be.  Many of those who died, and are counted as COVID deaths, would have died this year anyway - isn't it remarkable that pneumonia, heart attack and seasonal flu deaths are down ALMOST as much as COVID has gone up?  If this were Ebola, Bubonic Plague or something along those lines - even if it was a resurgence of MERS, that would be worse than this.

    lkruppjbdragonbeeble42watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,042member
    I’m waiting for these governments to mandate the installation of their apps by every citizen. In fact I’m waiting for the U.S. government to do the same, all in the name of protecting the public of course. I watched a news segment piece interviewing one of the healthcare ‘experts’ under whose thumb we now exist. She was actually lauding China because of its massive facial recognition systems, its ability to control the public and mandate social activity. What does that tell you?
    beeble42watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,042member
    hodar said:
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."- Benjamin Franklin

    ~60% of the population will be asymptomatic.  An overwhelming majority of those who do get sick will experience a mild cold with a dry cough.  Those who do get sick, and need hospitalization, we now have a protocol and treatment regiment that is shown to be effective.  An overwhelming number of those who have died, died from contributing factors that COVID was essentially blamed for.  Shot in the head, but had COVID, you are listed as a COVID death.  The bullet was just a contributing factor, as is Cancer, Heart attacks, compromised Pulminary System, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

    Its NEVER going away - it's a virus, just like Chickenpox.  Hiding from it will not make it disappear.  Don't blame me, I didn't make it in a lab, I didn't deny it's existence, I didn't kill those who talked about it, I didn't ship my citizens out to every developed country on the planet.

    Hiding from it, does NOT build herd immunity.  You will be exposed to it, if you haven't already, you will.  If you haven't had it already, you likely will.  It's highly contagious - but not nearly as deadly as it's been promoted to be.  Many of those who died, and are counted as COVID deaths, would have died this year anyway - isn't it remarkable that pneumonia, heart attack and seasonal flu deaths are down ALMOST as much as COVID has gone up?  If this were Ebola, Bubonic Plague or something along those lines - even if it was a resurgence of MERS, that would be worse than this.
    You know, that’s one of things we don't hear about from the experts. They don't seem to want to talk about herd immunity because they know that for herd immunity to be achieved the virus must spread. The news media is piling on Sweden for taking that approach because it doesn’t fit in with the virus ideology being pushed here. Another interesting factoid is that 2.8 million people died in the U.S. in 2018 (source: CDC website) yet there was no lockdown.
    jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 16
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,246member
    I’ll be downloading this as soon as it’s available as I completely trust the UK government...
    Thanks for the morning laugh.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    seanjseanj Posts: 298member
    I’m surprised at some of the tin foil hat brigade comments on an Apple site, I normally associate flat-earthers etc with Android...
    Peza
  • Reply 12 of 16
    PezaPeza Posts: 198member
    I’m glad here in the U.K. they chose to go the proper route and made their own app, as they have stated the stories claiming the app is open to privacy breaches are based in a total misunderstanding of the app, the data is stored on your phone ONLY until you have a test to show your positive, then you can allow your data to be used to contact all those you’ve been around, obviously as that’s the whole point of the app.

    the U.K. government has got so fed up with these glorified fake stories they’ve published the apps source code for public viewing if you don’t believe them... but those conspiracy nutters with their tin foil hats no doubt will still refuse to believe them...
  • Reply 13 of 16
    PezaPeza Posts: 198member

    seanj said:
    I’m surprised at some of the tin foil hat brigade comments on an Apple site, I normally associate flat-earthers etc with Android...
    It seems to be the modern world, just like how mans total obsession with money will cause this virus to have huge second spikes.. as countries are opening back up already.. people are more then happy to believe what random reporters with no constraints on websites and You Tune and Facebook tell them with no evidence or proof, and they ignore main stream media bound by laws and regulations to not lie.
  • Reply 14 of 16
    PezaPeza Posts: 198member
    hodar said:
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."- Benjamin Franklin

    ~60% of the population will be asymptomatic.  An overwhelming majority of those who do get sick will experience a mild cold with a dry cough.  Those who do get sick, and need hospitalization, we now have a protocol and treatment regiment that is shown to be effective.  An overwhelming number of those who have died, died from contributing factors that COVID was essentially blamed for.  Shot in the head, but had COVID, you are listed as a COVID death.  The bullet was just a contributing factor, as is Cancer, Heart attacks, compromised Pulminary System, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

    Its NEVER going away - it's a virus, just like Chickenpox.  Hiding from it will not make it disappear.  Don't blame me, I didn't make it in a lab, I didn't deny it's existence, I didn't kill those who talked about it, I didn't ship my citizens out to every developed country on the planet.

    Hiding from it, does NOT build herd immunity.  You will be exposed to it, if you haven't already, you will.  If you haven't had it already, you likely will.  It's highly contagious - but not nearly as deadly as it's been promoted to be.  Many of those who died, and are counted as COVID deaths, would have died this year anyway - isn't it remarkable that pneumonia, heart attack and seasonal flu deaths are down ALMOST as much as COVID has gone up?  If this were Ebola, Bubonic Plague or something along those lines - even if it was a resurgence of MERS, that would be worse than this.


    How often do you sharpen your scythe? I mean you apparently can tell us which year we will die in....
  • Reply 15 of 16
    PezaPeza Posts: 198member

    Many forums I am active on have members who say they do not trust the U.K. NHS to keep a centralised database secure, so will NOT be downloading the NHS app unless and until it switches to the decentralised Apple/Google model.
    And these same people have totally ignored what the app ‘actually’ does and believe crap written on websites with no controls over them... the data stays on your device, phone, unless you are tested as positive for Covid and then they use the data for the whole point of the app. To save lives... perhaps that’s too much common sense for people?
  • Reply 16 of 16
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,339member
    hodar said:
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."- Benjamin Franklin

    ~60% of the population will be asymptomatic.  An overwhelming majority of those who do get sick will experience a mild cold with a dry cough.  Those who do get sick, and need hospitalization, we now have a protocol and treatment regiment that is shown to be effective.  An overwhelming number of those who have died, died from contributing factors that COVID was essentially blamed for.  Shot in the head, but had COVID, you are listed as a COVID death.  The bullet was just a contributing factor, as is Cancer, Heart attacks, compromised Pulminary System, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

    Its NEVER going away - it's a virus, just like Chickenpox.  Hiding from it will not make it disappear.  Don't blame me, I didn't make it in a lab, I didn't deny it's existence, I didn't kill those who talked about it, I didn't ship my citizens out to every developed country on the planet.

    Hiding from it, does NOT build herd immunity.  You will be exposed to it, if you haven't already, you will.  If you haven't had it already, you likely will.  It's highly contagious - but not nearly as deadly as it's been promoted to be.  Many of those who died, and are counted as COVID deaths, would have died this year anyway - isn't it remarkable that pneumonia, heart attack and seasonal flu deaths are down ALMOST as much as COVID has gone up?  If this were Ebola, Bubonic Plague or something along those lines - even if it was a resurgence of MERS, that would be worse than this.


    You have missed the point. It isn't a question of 'hiding'. Confinement was introduced for many reasons and obviously reducing the spread of the virus was one of them. However, the biggest reason has been the same one worldwide. To try and reduce the impact on the health system. It has worked. 

    We have not had time to understand how the virus acts. We are seeking patterns, cross referencing data, studying the genome, etc. 

    We do not have anything to state that most people will get off lightly. We simply don't know. That information is being built up slowly. 

    Some people (a small subset at this point) hit major problems on day seven of the symptoms starting. Others suffer silent hipoxia. Others have signs of neurological disorders. 

    Letting this thing run rampant is nature's way of doing things and would kill a lot of people. Thankfully, we can lessen the impact through confinement, study and science. I prefer the second option. 

    As an aside... 

    Centralised databases aren't a problem. Government is full of them.

    Privacy and security concerns could be an issue but they always have been.  As with evertything, there are pros and contras. 

    30 years ago I was working on BROCS and IRIS (two of the largest systems in use at the time) within the Inland Revenue. 

    You will find similar examples right across government from administration, security, health etc.

    Personally, in this case I would prefer the most effective solution whichever that may be although both depend on a majority of people participating in the effort. 
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