back to article How many Brits have deleted life-saving track and trace app from their phones? No idea, junior minister tells MPs

UK government has admitted it is in the dark about how many of the citizens who downloaded the NHS Test and Trace App have since deleted it or switched off Bluetooth for the app, rendering it obsolete. The costly App, which finally came to market last summer after dithering by politicians, is designed to help combat the spread …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We have always been at War with ...

    ... being Pinged by the NHS Test and Trace App."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We have always been at War with ...

      "the very thing it was designed to do."

      and if you do happen to get pinged, even if you are double jabbed you'll have to sit at home for days not even able to go out for shopping. Just for possibly being in the same room as someone who has tested positive, even if you show no symptoms. No thanks.

      1. Cynic_999

        Re: "We have always been at War with ...

        "

        Just for possibly being in the same room as someone who has tested positive

        "

        It's far worse than that.

        Just for waiting to cross the road when a bus containing a person who tested positive stopped at that intersection. Or having lunch at a restaurant where a person who tested positive had dinner several hours later (you are registered at having been in the restaurant until 23:59 even if you left at 18:00)

        1. Jason Hindle

          Re: "We have always been at War with ...

          "It's far worse than that."

          It's not that bad. It has to be a constant exposure of something like 15 minutes. The app is way better than many give it credit for. However, I think the doubly jabbed in particular are justifiably narked after taking part in the biggest clinical trial in all of human history! Just give us our bloody freedom and enforce mask wearing where appropriate.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            I saw a figure of 47% of current cases are people who have been vaccinated. I was busy at the time, so I didn't dig in to find if that was doubly vaccinated at least two weeks prior or just had at least one vaccination or what numbers had symptoms or were hospitalised.

            But, it needs to be borne in mind that being vaccinated doesn't stop you getting infected. It reduces the chances of being infected, reduces any possible symptoms, possibly to none, and severly reduces the chances of being hospitalised and reduces the chances of passing it on. But it doesn't mean you can't get it and can't pass it on to the large percentage still not vaccinated.

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: "We have always been at War with ...

              The percentage of people who have been vaccinated is 69% first dose, 53% second dose, 50% second dose at least two weeks ago. So the fact that your 47% is lower than all these numers is a good sign.

            2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

              Re: "We have always been at War with ...

              "current cases "

              Something has been puzzling me for a long time now - when and how did a positive test for the presence of the virus come to mean a "case"? I associate the word case (at least when illness is referred to) to indicate something of severity.

              1. Boothy

                Re: "We have always been at War with ...

                If it's the figures I saw, then the 47% was related to people needing hospital treatment, rather than just positive tests.

            3. Boothy

              Re: "We have always been at War with ...

              If it's the same figures I saw, then the 47% was of people who were positive AND who needed hospital treatment, but who'd been fully vaccinated (2 jabs + 2 weeks). With the other 53% being those not vaccinated at all, or not fully vaccinated yet.

              Some anti-vaccers were claiming this was evidence that vaccinations didn't work, when it's actually the opposite.

              The issue with just the percentage, is that doesn't show absolute figures. From what I remember in the article I read, we had similar numbers of infected people back in January, before vaccinations roll outs, but back then a lot more people ended up in hospital. The current figures seems to show that only about 10-15% or so of people now need hospital treatment, compared to pre-vaccination. (And this should improve as the vaccinations roll out).

              So that 47% of people who were fully vaccinated and hospitalised, were from a much smaller starting number of people to begin with. Also you have to take into account that the vast majority of people fully vaccinated, are those people who are more vulnerable, so more likely to need hospital treatment.

              That % will grow of course, as more people are fully vaccinated, as there'll be less people around that aren't vaccinated, but the absolute number of people hospitalised will continue to fall.

          2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            "enforce mask wearing where appropriate."

            That would be nowhere then, at least with the masks the vast majority of people wear.

            1. Jason Hindle

              Re: "We have always been at War with ...

              "at least with the masks the vast majority of people wear."

              Sorry, but I'm calling bullshit on that one. A single layer changes the probability, two layers more so and so on. It's not hard. From next week I would not get on a bus unless wearing an FFP2 standard mask at a minimum. For now, I'm happy with the washable three layer masks I use (for the amount of time I spend in environments where masks are required).

          3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            But exposure is judged by Bluetooth proximity. And that might be to a phone in another room, though a wall that lets 2.4GHz through.

            Or, you could have your phone in your right pocket, and be to the right of someone. The Bluetooth signal gets completely absorbed by the wet salty meatbag in the way. There's a reason 2.4GHz is unlicensed, it's the peak absorption frequency for water, and thus useless for long-distance comms. And gets jammed by a microwave oven.

          4. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            The vaccine is *not* the be all and end all. It doesn't stop you from getting the disease. It merely reduces the chance of getting seriously bad symptoms. Those double-jabbed people who now 'are justifiably narked' talked themselves into believing (or happily believed the trope) the vaccine was the holy grail.

            Those who've been involved in medical trials and who've continued to listen to the scientists and not the populist gutter-scraping rags, are under no illusion, and are rather narked at the ones who think 'Freedom Day' is going to be the end of it all.

            So no, while you're right that constant exposure is meant to be used here, 'give us our bloody freedom' is not appropriate yet.

            Sorry.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "We have always been at War with ...

          "Or having lunch at a restaurant where a person who tested positive had dinner several hours later (you are registered at having been in the restaurant until 23:59 even if you left at 18:00)"

          Venue check-in notifications only advise that you visited a place where someone who since tested positive was also there the same day. That's all. That means a slightly higher risk of cross infection, so be careful, maybe book a test if feel you might need one. Use some common sense. If it was a large open plan area with decent ventilation, odds or low you got it. If it was a relatively small, eclosed space, go get a test.

          If you were there at the same time as someone who tested positive and were within 2 m for more than 15 minutes, then you will get the alert to self-isolate due to the bluetooth proximity algo. At which point you also order home test kits and potentially cut short self-isolation. Or, if you know the likely location from the data, and you know it was open and well ventilated, ignore it and get on with your life.

          1. Martin
            FAIL

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            At which point you also order home test kits and potentially cut short self-isolation. ...

            So my wife was pinged and told to self isolate. So she went and got a drive-through test. Came back negative. Great ! She put the result into the test-and-trace app - and it said "Fine! You've tested negative. You've still got to continue isolating..."

            So much for cutting short self-isolation. As she's feeling fine, I don't see what the point of doing the test actually was, if you've still got to self-isolate even if you test negative.

      2. Jason Hindle

        Re: "We have always been at War with ...

        "and if you do happen to get pinged, even if you are double jabbed you'll have to sit at home for days not even able to go out for shopping. Just for possibly being in the same room as someone who has tested positive, even if you show no symptoms. No thanks."

        According to the Citizens' Advice it is not actually a legal requirement to isolate if pinged by the app. Within the app, you can find out which day the contact took place and made some sort of informed decision based on that (e.g. if you never left the house that day). Not sure what would happen if you tried to check in somewhere after being pinged though.

        1. Martin
          Unhappy

          Re: "We have always been at War with ...

          Within the app, you can find out which day the contact took place and made some sort of informed decision based on that ...

          How? My wife was pinged to self-isolate for five days. But that was ALL it said. It didn't say when the contact might have happened, it didn't say where. So what's she got to base the "informed decision" on?

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            It was 5 days prior to the ping. Isolation period ends 10 days after the contact takes place.

          2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            5 days? That's better than what the wife got (isolate for 2 days over a weekend too....).

            The thing is, she's a dentist and walking back the dates was at work. OK so far, but her phone was on the reception desk (practice rules, plus her room being lead lined doesn't lend itself to good phone signal).

            So if she got pinged... Why did none of the other staff she was working with get it as well? Not one of them...

            Then there's the transmission controls in place being an order of magnitude better than most work environments (something about working with transmission sources, aerosol generation and generally staring people in the mouth for long periods of time) and have only tightened up since they were allowed to pickup the drill again.

            Then there's the constant testing that she takes anyway ontop of being double jabbed (she managed it before my grandma did).

            That evening we went to a local brewery for some food and a few beers. We both checked in, we both were there for the same period of time, so why haven't I been pinged?

            The app has no sense of nuance or finesse. Even just letting you know where the contact took place would be an advantage (where you sat having a picnic in a breezy park with only one person nearby who tested positive or locked in an airless office with twenty someone others who came down with it? Who knows...)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "We have always been at War with ...

              I'm currently working for an NHS trust we have been instructed to turn off contact tracing before getting to work to avoid false positives, I thought that was standard for all health care environments.

          3. Jason Hindle

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            "How? My wife was pinged to self-isolate for five days. But that was ALL it said. It didn't say when the contact might have happened, it didn't say where. So what's she got to base the "informed decision" on?"

            For Android:

            - Settings -> Other

            From there you will see notification date and encounter date.

            1. Martin
              Facepalm

              Re: "We have always been at War with ...

              Blimey, you're right ! Not exactly obvious where to find it, is it? Why not just ping that information up on the pop-up where it tells you to self isolate?

              Sigh.

              Anyway, thanks for the information.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "We have always been at War with ...

            Maybe she was sitting at the traffic light, waiting for it to turn green and a COVID infected person was driving past on the other road - I run the wigle.net bluetooth scanner whenever I'm on the go, and stopped at a traffic light you can normally see about 100 bluetooth signals drive past.

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: "We have always been at War with ...

        "and if you do happen to get pinged"

        I never bothered with the app over here (France). I'm very introvert and avoid being too close to people, and the time when I mix with large groups is at work in a clean environment where we aren't allowed potential contaminants such as mobile phones, jewellery, etc etc. So if the place is full of plague-zombies, the app would be useless.

        1. Rich 11

          Re: "We have always been at War with ...

          So if the place is full of plague-zombies, the app would be useless.

          Well, naturally. By this stage what you really need is a pump-action shotgun and a fire axe.

  2. My-Handle Silver badge

    Irrespective of whether analytics data is being stored or not, I can appreciate why many people would want to uninstall the app.

    A lot of companies don't have a sick pay scheme. A colleague I work with has been asked to self-isolate three times during the first half of the pandemic, on statutory sick pay each time. She admitted that she was one more self-isolation request away from going bankrupt.

    Myself, statutory sick pay is something less than a fifth of what I earn. I have some savings, and could probably negotiate a mortgage holiday with my bank if I needed to, but it would only take a couple of isolation requests to cripple me.

    Without some means of supporting isolating people at something close to their normal lifestyle, many of them will do the math and just not install (or uninstall) the app, choosing to take the risk instead. It is just the most pragmatic approach, on the individual level. Only at the society level does it become a terrible idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Like many people, I never installed it in the first place.

      It would have required at least a single quantum of faith in the Government.

      1. Commswonk

        @Pseudononymous coward

        Like many people, I never installed it in the first place.

        It would have required at least a single quantum of faith in the Government.

        In my case (and that of Mrs Commswonk) it would also have required me (us) to get a smartphone.

      2. Snowy Silver badge
        Facepalm

        To install it would require me to buy a new phone as my current one is not compatible with it.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      As we've known since the 80s, there's no such thing as society.

      And this is the result.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One more isolation from going bankrupt, and yet people will blame the app, not their employer for poor employment terms, not the government for not providing better statutory sick pay, and not this government for being incompetent fuckwits prolonging all this. The most annoying thing with all this, people blaming the wrong target and having no choice but to carry out risky activity.

      1. Danny 14

        it is fine armchair blaming small companies for poor conditions. Quite often people work for these companies because they arent faceless organisations. The bosses dont earn huge figures, are in work long before and long after the workers. They simply cannot afford the luxury of top up pay. They cant afford to give people more than zero hour contracts. I know a couple of small businesses that employ around 10 people who are utterly shit scared of test and rrace basically closing the company down.

        Juat reality of the state of affairs.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Surprise

    I am actually surprised they found anyone willing to develop this for such low rates and inside IR35...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Surprise

      The problem wasn't in the development, it was in the requirements.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Surprise

        Requirements gathering is also part of the product development cycle.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Surprise

          The requirements are what HMG said they wanted.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Surprise

            ...what HMG said they wanted...

            Which were nothing to do with what was actually required.

  4. lybad

    Nation Dependent

    This story goes on about "British" people - NHS Scotland use a different app (Protect Scotland https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.scot.covidtracker ), so it's a bit of a weird way to describe it anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Re: Nation Dependent

      The NHS England app works in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar. The NHS Scotland app works in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar.

      So it doesn't matter which app you use until/unless one of the authorities decide to fuck with the sensitivity of it. Because, obviously, rather than letting people know if they've perhaps been exposed and allowing them to make their own decisions about the risks they want to expose their colleagues, elderly relatives etc to post-19th-July, it's better not to tell them at all, to maximise the infection rate.

      At least that's the way you'd think if you were in charge of a johnsonite death cult, I'm sure.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Nation Dependent

        Both also work in the Republic of Ireland, and in many other countries that use the Apple/Google framework.

      2. David Neil

        Re: Nation Dependent

        That maybe what they claim for the NHS Scotland app, but I know for a fact that scanning codes in London around the Scotland/England game didn't work.

        A friend installed the NHS England app, scanned in, and when he got home was told to isolate. No such alert on the NHS Scotland app.

        Guess which one he uninstalled so he didn't lose money.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Nation Dependent

          The scanning codes thing is different to the bluetooth thing.

          The bluetooth thing can only be assigned to one app at a time. Probably when they installed the English App, it changed over the bluetooth thing from Scotland to England.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "it has proved effective"?

    "According to a study in Nature earlier this year, the app and resulting self-isolation may have avoided 284,000 cases from its launch on 24 September 2020 to the end of December 2020, during a time when it was used regularly by approximately 16.5 million people or 28 per cent of the total population in Britain."

    The number of reported cases in the UK yesterday was 42,000, and cases have been rising for weeks. This app "may" have avoided 284,000 cases in England and Wales in three months (Scotland has a separate app. I am ignorant as to what it done in Northern Ireland). I'm afraid I don't understand how the conclusion has been reached that "it has proved effective".

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      It's because that's what your Government wants you to believe.

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: "it has proved effective"?

      September to December was pre-vaccine; the death toll from cases then would be much higher than the same number of cases now.

      Also government being reckless/incompetent/uncaring at the current time does not invalidate the app's utility then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "it has proved effective"?

        I'm getting pretty sick (no pun intended) of all this uncaring/reckless Government crap. What's your strategy for getting out from under the bed covers on this one before you reach economic collapse? I'm not talking pre-vaccine, I'm talking right here and now.

        The vaccination work has been going great guns and you will never eliminate this virus so, just like the flu and other respiratory viruses, you will have to learn to live with it. The number of cases per day becomes irrelevant unless you wish to calculate the percentage of fatalities. It is the number of deaths and hospitalisations that matter. You don't peak out from under the covers in winter to "see how many people caught the flu today" do you? Most wouldn't even be concerned over the number of deaths from the flu, considering it part of life. You don't require everyone to mask up in flu season do you, despite the many deaths it brings? This will be the same. It has to, there is nothing else you can do except vaccinate and move on.

        The stench of pissed-on mattresses has become overwhelming and the bleating herd mentality needs to stop.

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: "it has proved effective"?

          @AC Personally I would be happy if people had to mask up in flu season

          As someone who suffers respiratory problems (& react really badly when I get a respiratory system targeting infection such as a cold, never mind flu) my health has really benefited from mask wearing reducing prevalence of various infections as a by product of anti COVID measures.

          Would be happy if we went more along the regular mask use culture route that some other societies have had for a while.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "it has proved effective"?

            Errr, not going to happen. How about "you suffer from the issues, you wear the mask"?

  6. nightflame2

    Google Play Analytics

    The Google Play Console available to a developer of an app gives a huge amount of analytical information on apps useage. Especially installs, uninstalls and activity.

    Although it wouldn't be able to tell if app active but Bluetooth disabled. That said if you do this the Covid app gives persistent notifications. In which case most people just delete it.

    1. davefb

      Re: Google Play Analytics

      "no idea"

      Ah, they old "if we dont ask, then we dont know" answer.

      Yeah, they might not know the bluetooth info, though it surely is tracked and if not, why not? But to make the claim they somehow don't know the number of deletions is just remarkable for the sheer cheek of it.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Google Play Analytics deletions

        Since I remove my Google account from my device after I finish using Google Play to update or download an app, they would not know about my deletions until the next time I [bother to] log on. If Google Play is smart enough to count the now-missing app as "deleted", that is.

    2. Natalie Gritpants Jr

      Re: Google Play Analytics

      The best way to find out is to ask people i.e. do a survey. Oh look, the Grauniad did one already. Looks like the numbers have gone down by 30%

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The likelihood of this happening was obvious before the scheme was launched. Anyone capable of thinking one step beyond "wouldn't it be a good idea" would have thought about what happens beyond a match being identified. Unfortunately that requirement seems to exclude any politician, or at least any minister and their SPADs.

    A match on this basis is nothing more than an indication that a chance for an infection has occurred which is very different from saying than an actual infection has occurred. The likely number of false positives would dictate that the next step should be to organise a test to see it it actually occurred.

    If the idea had been handed over to someone capable of working that out for themselves it might have been saved. Instead it was handed over to the person who was even less capable of that than the government.

    1. Test Man

      Precisely. At the start, when we didn't know anything about covid-19, self-isolation was a fair enough necessity. 1 and a half years later, it's too blunt a tool. The framework works well, but by now we should be using actual testing to make sure people who are infected stay home, not ask whole swathes of people who likely don't have it to stay home "just in case". In other words, a proper targeted approach is needed.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Testing was available before the app. There was no excuse for going straight to self-isolation. The only action to take based on a positive result from a presumptive test is to apply a more definitive test. When telling people to self-isolate they should then have made provision to support those self isolating. If the latter had been done a back of the envelope check on the likely costs would have suggested requiring a test first. In fact I'm surprised the Treasury didn't demand testing on the basis of likely cost to the economy.

    2. AndyMulhearn

      Nicely put with the potential but not actual infection. I was in Kew Gardens last week and walked past a number of sites where they wanted me to check in. On a sunny and breezy day with not too many people in, what risk did I face of contracting COVID? And if someone that had checked in had a positive test who would have been notified to isolate? The 20 people that just happen to have checked in around the same time or everyone that checked in in at the gardens that day?

      Way too blunt an instrument now we have rapid tests etc.

      1. Cynic_999

        No, it would not have been the 20 or so people who checked in at about the same time. It would have been the (probably) 100's of people who checked in after the infected person for *the rest of that day*.

        Because there is no requirement to *check out* of a place, so the app assumes that the infected person remained in a place from the time they checked in until either 23:59 or the time they checked into a different place (if they did).

        Of course, if they stayed at a place past midnight, the app would erroneously show them as not present after that time, so people who arrived after midnight would not be pinged.

        1. AndyMulhearn

          Because there is no requirement to *check out* of a place, so the app assumes that the infected person remained in a place from the time they checked in until either 23:59 or the time they checked into a different place (if they did).

          Yep, this. No check out means as you suggest anyone that checks in after the case is detected is fscked. That’s always been one of my bugbears about how the app worked right from the start. I get that it was rushed out but there’s been plenty of time to add a checkout option to the app. At least that way if I forget to check out it’s my fault but no option to do it at all is an odd omission.

        2. Lil Endian Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Bounds Checking

          Agreed.

          Which screams to me of the app being written by skiddies who've never heard of bounds checking (amongst other basics).

          Pro-tip (@skiddies): having a datetime range would make that easier for you.

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      A match on this basis is nothing more than an indication that a chance for an infection has occurred

      Imagine that we had an app that would ping us if we walked past someone that based on all metadata government has on you and that person, you actually missed a change of meeting a life long partner.

      Or that the area you were sitting in was next to a place that recruited for a job you always wanted based on the collect chats with your friends and you just missed it.

      Imagine the alerts "PAY MORE ATTENTION CITIZEN!"

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "The costly App, which [..] designed to help" . .

    . . all the Minister's friends and allow them to make bank during a time of crisis.

    In that, it has indeed been supremely successful.

    As for preventing infections, well given that they don't know who has the app, who's using it and who has uninstalled it, just how reliable do you really think those figures are ?

  9. Dwarf

    Technology to the rescue

    It just ticked the box of "do something and look busy" and any time you add the word technology in place, it must be good - right ??

    I've never had a sensible answer from anyone about how bluetooth distance measurements could be 3D aware. If I'm on the floor above or below you and therefore "in bluetooth range", but well outside of any path that could involve transferring the Virus, then how would it know.

    How would it understand the miles of plexiglass that were put in to protect people from each other - for example at the supermarkets and every shop you went into or when you are in a shop and someone is outside sitting on the bench etc. The same thing about being outside - how does it know compared to inside, which is supposed to be worse etc.

    As it doesn't understand the real world, it can't give accurate responses and will always over estimate risk.

    However, from a Govt. perspective, I guess it made people feel better that "things were being done" and it didn't involve doing a bunch of other harder things.

    Personally, I've never installed it and have no plans to do so.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Technology to the rescue

      I was chatting to a friend who had one of his coworkers have to self isolate.

      The person couldn’t figure out where he had been pinged from, as all he had done was go to work and then back home. As his self isolation came to an end he was talking to his neighbour who mentioned that their child had had it. So the ping had triggered through the walls of the house…

    2. Commswonk

      Re: Technology to the rescue

      ...and any time you add the word technology in place, it must be good - right

      Has anyone else noticed how television advertisements simply have to have the word "technology" in them now? Even some brand of shampoo has some sort of "technology" as part of its formulation.

      It makes my bullshit - detecting technology (a soggy mass of cells located between my ears) go into overdrive, followed by the sound of grinding teeth...

      </rant>

      1. ClockworkOwl
        FAIL

        Re: Technology to the rescue

        Upvoted, 'cos I get a sense of that...

        However I've cultivated a SEP like ability to not register ad content,

        I mean it never is MY problem :@)

        It's there as an annoying audiovisual buzz, but no detail...

        Maybe I'm broken!

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Technology to the rescue

        Now? It seems like forever.

      3. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Technology to the rescue

        What are these "television advertisements" you speak of?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Technology to the rescue

      I've never had a sensible answer from anyone about how bluetooth distance measurements could be 3D aware. If I'm on the floor above or below you and therefore "in bluetooth range", but well outside of any path that could involve transferring the Virus, then how would it know.

      Unless you generally balance you phone on your head and the person on the floor above leave the phone on the floor, odds are in most buildings, the phones will be more than 2m apart. Then there will be some attenuation due to the ceiling/floor above with power lines, ducting, air-con, whatever, all affecting the signal strength. It;s possible, but IMO unlikely that someone on the floor above could cause your phone to ping.

      How would it understand the miles of plexiglass that were put in to protect people from each other - for example at the supermarkets and every shop you went into or when you are in a shop and someone is outside sitting on the bench etc. The same thing about being outside - how does it know compared to inside, which is supposed to be worse etc.

      How often do you find yourself spending 15 minutes standing still in a supermarket or shop?

      Also, it's recommended that people "isolated" behind screens should turn their app off.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Technology to the rescue

        A wall is equivalent to about 6 meters of air as far as bluetooth is concerned.

  10. ItsMeDammit

    This is what happens when phones are smarter than their owners.

    Looking at some of the comments in the Play store it is no wonder people are uninstalling the app. They don't understand how it works at a pretty basic level. I genuinely feel sorry for whoever it is who has to post replies to comments such as these:

    "Bluetooth is not needed for anything in the app however if you don't enable the app does not work." - A typical 1 star "review" from someone who seems to think the app runs on fairy dust and moon-beams.

    "Sorry I can’t make head nor tail of the NHS COVID-19 app. I don’t understand apps. I’ve tried to download the app and all get is advice on ordering prescriptions." - That's because you've opened a different NHS app which to be fair does look very similar.

    "I do not consent to surveillance." - Says someone who's never read a EULA in their life.

    "Good but uses battery while on blue tooth" - Waking it up every 5 mins to check the battery level (or your Twitter feed) probably isn't helping.

    "Dont install, it's a waste of time. Covid is done and over with." - Tell that to friends and relatives of the 4.06 MILLION people who have died from it so far.

    "Annoying as hell that it constantly demands Bluetooth to be turned on, I don't need reminding 5 times a day" - Perhaps a good slapping would work.

    And my current favourite:

    "I have deleted this since finding out you can fake it to get a isolation alert all you have to do is tick one of the boxes of symptoms I tried it and got the alert straight away twice, I do not have any of the symptoms, so how many people will be saying they have an alert when not true" - Thanks to you, probably everyone you've been in close contact with recently.

    If it is your job to respond to people like this then you are one of the unsung NHS heroes. I could not do your job.

  11. Shalghar Bronze badge

    If that "useful" app is as reliable as germanys "corona warn app", that cost around 70 million euros and still gets up to three millions each month for "support", i do not think that it is helping in any way.

    Our local placebo app was released with the promise that it would protect privacy, now gets all kinds of trackers and tracers implanted while still unable to reliably warn at all.

    This is in part to the fact that its literally impossible to guarantee that you can enter a QR code from any laboratory - instead of giving every lab a generator, they waited (and still wait) for user reports on what companys QR code did not work.

    No QR code or the workaround "Tele-TAN" and you cannot tell the "warn" app that you are infected.

    The app sometimes loses all its collected data, sometimes crashes without warning, destroying the data or needing a re-install which (you guessed it) destroys the data.

    Next issue lies within googles ENF, that also took some vacations not reported as they happened but later on - if at all. Another can of bugs is the ever changing rules that define a "warning possibility" - how many minutes of what signal strength generate a "risk" warning has been changed at least four times as far as i know.

    User reports in the critical reviews clearly state that "infected" AKA persons with valid QR codes entered into their smartphones did not kick a warning message in partners smartphones, although both had bluetooth and "warn app" enabled and were lying next to each other in the charging place.

    Oh and you cannot get rid of your infected status without uninstalling. There is no possibility of entering a "hey i am clean, heres the QR from my test" at any place.

    Just think of what chaos such a piece of quality could do when also issuing mandatory "self isolation". Much more so as it is unable to defuse the "infected" status.

  12. Dr.Flay

    6 of 1, half a dozen of the other

    whether or not people are removing the app, it is still a very popular download.

    Currently the 4th most popular free app in the UK.

    https://www.appbrain.com/stats/google-play-rankings/top_free/all/gb

  13. Annihilator

    "infamous but effective code"

    "infamous but effective code"

    Is it though? I've never bought into how effective it could be. It's determined on bluetooth signal strength and duration, which is more variable than just proximity. The signal strength presumably looks the same if my (and the other person's) phone is in their hands 20 feet away, compared with the phones in a padded jacket pocket while standing 3 feet apart.

    Equally, doesn't take into account the environment (indoors, outdoors, how ventilated the space was), or any preventative methods in place (perspex screens, masks).

  14. tip pc Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Motivation

    "The motivation for scrubbing the inconvenient bit of code is clear: people needing to work."

    I'm sure some are motivated by needing to work, others are motivated to go on holiday or other events where being pinged would be a real dampener.

    if you deactivate the exposure notifications it deletes the logs, you could just delete the logs everyday if you wanted, or just bin the app.

    As far as I can remember the NHS cv19 has no clue who you are so its more for awareness.

    If you are contacted by track and trace then you must isolate.

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Let's not forget that it was going to be the great saviour until it wasn't ready in time after which it became a nice to have.

  16. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    More than half a million isolation alerts during the first week of July.

    Can we be 100% certain that the app communications have not been hacked to promote an economy shutdown side effect? Thank about this - it would not be too difficult to create a situation where 500,000 false alerts were generated by manipulating the Bluetooth tracking "method" - I say "method" because it looks like the app is just making a guess, it's assuming that all it's data is accurate even though it appears to have zero evidence.

    I see the actual numbers showing that the delta variant is expanding the infection rate - mostly among un-vaccinated people, but I'm not going to assume that the tracking app is accurate when there's virtually no evidence that it is accurate and that it cannot be hacked. When apps are written they are tested to show that they do work, but virtually never tested to see if they don't.

  17. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Do we still need this kind of applications now there are efficient vaccines available for all?

    I wouldn't like to suffer any restriction to protect somebody who refuses to take the vaccine.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      What about the 4% of people who do take the vaccine but the vaccine doesn't work for them?

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        What about the 4% of people who do take the vaccine but the vaccine doesn't work for them?

        'Doesn't work' means mostly that these people can get COVID-19 but with mild consequences, so it's not really a problem.

  18. Lee D

    Hands up who never installed in the first place, knowing what government IT is like, and that this was a Serco job and nothing to do with the NHS?

  19. CommanderGalaxian
    Facepalm

    Freedumb day!!!1!!

    Now that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have said that you don't necessarily need to self-isolate (and aren't bothering to do so themselves) just because you have been in contact with somebody who has #Covid19 - there doesn't seem to be much point to this App anymore.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Freedumb day!!!1!!

      You must have posted in the 10 mins between it being announced that Bonking Boris and Dishy Riski were not going to isolate and the about face due to the $#!+ hitting the fan.

      Boris thinks we are all going to do the right thing. Ignoring that fact that this is Boris 'I'm not going to stop shaking hands' Johnson who was mysteriously hospitalised the week after visiting victims and shaking hands with them and the staff treating them, there are 2 words that sum up the UK's idea of 'doing the right thing'

      Boaty McBoatface!

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