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    Coronavirus: How does contact-tracing work and is my data safe?

    In the fight against corona, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson says the UK will launch the contact-tracing app by the first of June. To this effect, the British government recruited twenty-four thousand contact tracers.  These tracers will bear the duty of gathering relevant information from infected patients about people they have been in contact with and then go ahead to locate these people.

    A scheduled trial test will take place on The Isle of Wight. According to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock,  “the elderly population on the island, and, lower number of smartphone users, made it a useful place to study the spread of a virus.”

    How does the contact-tracing app work?

    contact tracing

    The app requires Bluetooth access to run in the background. If users develop symptoms, they decide whether or not to let the app alert the National Health Service (NHS). This message, in turn, drops an anonymous alert to contacts of the infected person asking them to go for a test.

    Technicalities

    Despite being a welcome development, technical issues have arisen.

    For starters, users will have come clean about their symptoms to the NHS.

    Also, to achieve maximum results and repress the virus, a majority of the world’s population at least eighty per cent of smartphone users will have to download and use the app on their phones.

    Those without phones will have to report their symptoms and order for the test via an online service.

    Contact-tracing app in other countries

    Positive reviews have been coming in from other countries.

    South Korea has successfully monitored all credit card transactions, as well as, CCTV footage and location of mobile phones. Norwegians have raised concerns about third-party access to users’ data. Austria has given users an upper hand, as they have released a decentralized app that allows user control matches. Iceland has a higher response rate than any other country; over forty percent of its population has downloaded the app.

     

    Security challenges

    Security flaws, which could pose a serious risk and block messages to users, are being raised. Civil Right Groups have said the app shouldn’t be used as a condition to start work and leave the lockdown. The NHS has assured not to use any data outside the scope of health and research.

    While trying to curb any hacking and invasion of user privacy data, Apple and Google have decided to use a decentralized model. This model will take place on people’s phones, whereas the UK app opted for a centralized model that would take place on a computer server; this would help understand the virus spread.

     

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