Meanwhile in the UK...
The NHS is in a standoff with Apple and Google after the two tech firms refused to support the UK’s plans to build an app that alerts users when they have been in contact with someone with coronavirus.
Apple and Google are encouraging health services worldwide to build contact-tracing apps that operate in a decentralised way, allowing individuals to know when they’ve been in contact with an infected person but preventing governments from using that data to build a picture of population movements in aggregate.
But the policies, unveiled last week, apply only to apps that don’t result in the creation of a centralised database of contacts. That means that if the NHS goes ahead with its original plans, its app would face severe limitations on its operation.
But the new tools, which come in the form of an API that lets developers code apps with special access to Bluetooth, strictly limit the information that public health authorities can gather. Most importantly, a public health authority cannot ask a phone to gather a list of every other phone it has been in contact with.
The limits will prevent the NHS from obtaining useful information about population flows in the aggregate, tracking “near misses” or receiving information about contacts from people who have opted into the system but not recently checked their phones.
This seems to me to be a tenuous excuse at best. If the government wants population flows, it can already get them from the telecos (cell location data). If the government wants to get people to check their phones, it can push a notification to the NHS app or set a notification to appear at some time in the future.