April 24, 2020

Please explain how NHS app will work, asks Open Rights Group

Reacting to NHSX’s announcement that “in the coming weeks, the NHS will be launching a contact-tracing app”, Open Rights Group’s Executive Director said that transparency over the app was paramount.

“The NHSX project claims a commitment to transparency, but we know next to nothing about how the app will work.

“It is especially unclear how the NHS app will function as it appears to rely on being able to leverage new protocols from Apple and Google, while Apple–Google have explicitly ruled out a ‘centralised’ approach to mobile data matching.

“As we understand matters, without using the Apple-Google method the NHS App would end up draining battery and causing screen locks to be disabled.

“Yet the blog makes no mention of how this problem is resolved, nor explains when protocols and code will be released.

“The result is that we are engaged in speculation and guesswork rather than an informed debate.

"Public trust is the most important marker for success for this app. Without significant take-up from the population it will fail. To secure that trust, and the best chance of take-up, the NHS needs to do more than a blog and a promise for privacy experts to get ‘under the bonnet’ some time in the future, when the decisions have all been made.”

Estonia, Austria and Switzerland are now using the ‘dencentralised’ model of contact matching. [2, 3, 4] ORG believes that the government must create clarity and openness through early release of needs, code and protocols to understand how NHSX’s problems can best be met.

ENDS

Contact

Jim Killock 07894498127 / press@openrightsgroup.org

Notes

1 Digital contact tracing: protecting the NHS and saving lives

https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/blogs/digital-contact-tracing-protecting-nhs-and-saving-lives/

2 Estonia using decentralised matching: https://e-estonia.com/trace-covid-19-while-respecting-privacy/

3 Austria using decentralised matching: https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS20200422OTS0052/stopp-corona-app-weiterentwicklung-mit-hilfe-der-zivilgesellschaft

4 Swizerland using decentralised matching: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/digital-solution_contact-tracing-app-could-be-launched-in-switzerland-within-weeks/45706296