UK Government to Switch to Apple, Google-Developed Contact-Tracing API: REPORT

The UK government dropped its plans to deploy a solely homegrown contact-tracing app to track the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Instead, explains a new report from BBC, it will opt to use a system developed by Apple and Google, which is considered to be more privacy-conscious.

The government is set to combine some of the technology from its own app with Apple and Google’s framework, it said on Thursday.

“As we enter this next phase of research and development we remain determined to continue in our ambition to develop an app which meets the technical, security and user needs of the public and which can complement the NHS Test and Trace service,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock in a statement.

The U-turn follows growing concerns about the British government’s plans to use custom-made software and send the data to a central database. Cybersecurity experts spotted numerous security flaws in the system, and trials of the app exposed a range of technical issues.

Apple and Google, on the other hand, teamed up to release a tool that would allow different countries to build fully decentralized apps that would work across iOS and Android and wouldn’t pose the same risk to users’ privacy by avoiding having to upload health data to a central database.

Countries including Germany, which has now released its contact-tracing app, ditched plans to use their own proprietary solutions in favor of Apple and Google.

Digital privacy expert Ray Walsh from digital rights organization Pro Privacy called it “huge win for digital privacy.”

“A decentralised app will allow consumers across the UK to download the app without fears that their data could be exploited for secondary purposes,” he said. “It is a shame that it took so long for the NHS and the government to come to the same realisation privacy experts had months ago — that in order for an app to be effective it is going to need to be accepted by the general public.”