Britain's NHS rejects the Apple & Google COVID-19 exposure notification technology

The National Health Service says it will use its own centralized contract tracking system, rather than deploying exposure notification technology developed by Apple and Google.


The NHS says its application will work “well enough” on iPhones without using Apple / Google technology. (Image source: NHSX)

The UK National Health Service has rejected the use of future Apple and Google contact search technology in favor of its own national system. Unlike the Apple / Google partnership, the NHS app will see iPhones and Android phones continuously reporting to a central database maintained by the British government.

According to BBC News, the NHSX system, the National Health Service’s technology advisory group, will operate via Bluetooth. It connects when two devices are close enough to each other for more than an indefinite period of time, and transmits this informationon to the central database.

“The engineers have addressed several fundamental challenges for the application to meet public health needs,” said an NHSX spokeswoman for the BBC, “and is sufficiently supportive of detecting contact events, including when the app is in the background, without excessively affecting battery life. “

In comparison, Apple and Google technology will allow contact tracking without an app having to launch or wake up. For privacy reasons, U.S. tech companies also plan to track contacts on each individual’s device, so that data isn’t passed to a company’s servers.

NHSX maintains that it will be able to audit the data and adapt the system more quickly if details are kept on its servers. “It’s probably easier to do it with a centralized system,” NHSX adviser Professor Christophe Fraser told the BBC.

The NHSX plan was said to have been aided by experts from the GCHQ’s National Cybersecurity Center, although the NCSC told the BBC that it had only given advice on the technology.

The BBC notes that Apple and Google supported the British team, and the NHSX’s own statement repeats it. “We are working with Apple and Google on their welcome support for tracking apps around the world,” he said.

NHSX says it will launch its app “in the coming weeks”, while Apple and Google plan to release theirs on April 28.

Contact tracking
Apple and Google illustrate their contact search solution.

The United Kingdom is not the only country to develop its own system. Australia launched its own app on Sunday April 26 and reports that it is used by one million people. This represents 4% of the population, and according to BBC News, it must reach 40% x to be effective.

Germany was previously also opposed to the Apple / Google plan, but this week agreed to support it.

France continues to prefer its own proposed system and has asked Apple to change the restrictions on iOS on applications running in the background, so that its application works properly. “[Our] Privacy principles will not change, “said Gary Davis, Apple’s global privacy director.” These are basic privacy principles that are necessary for this to work. “

Appleiphonestop contacted the NHS for details on its technology and the effectiveness of its implementation. However, the NHS press office instead directed us to the UK Department of Health and Welfare. Then the DHSC referred us directly to the NHSX, but the emails to the address given to us were returned with “address not found”.

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