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.