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An Apple a day, keeps the Doctors away from your location data.

An NHS COVID-19 app update has been delayed after it was blocked by Apple and Google on privacy concerns.

As UK-wide lockdown measures were relaxed across the UK on April 12th, the NHS COVID-19 app update was set to include a brand-new feature that would have allowed users that had tested positive, to upload a list of all of the venues they had checked into, by using a QR code. This would then enable others who had visited the same venues at the same time, to be notified that they have come into contact with someone who had tested positive.

However, the issue is that this form of location tracking has been explicitly prohibited on privacy grounds by both Apple and Google, who have worked together to design the Covid-19 exposure notification system used on all iOS and Android devices.

Around the world, public health authorities that had signed up to the exposure notification system agreed to never use it to collect location data, but this was what Apple and Google considered would have happened under the most recent update to the app.

It does raise the question of whether the developers behind the app had considered ‘privacy by design’ when developing the new system for uploading check-ins. However, this appears to have not been high on the list of priorities. Whether some tweaks to how the process operates will be sufficient enough for Apple and Google to allow the update to be released to the public, remains to be seen.

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