THE government has finally launched the contact tracing app into app stores. Here’s an idiot’s guide on what it is, how it works and what it will and won’t do.
It alerts you if someone you were in close proximity to over the last 14 days tested positive for Covid-19.
The app uses the phone to send out signals, which are acknowledged by other phones (which have the app) and stored for two weeks. If you test positive for Covid-19, you enter that detail into the app and it automatically ‘pings’ any other phones that were close to you for a minimum period of time (enough time to be considered a risk for transfer of the virus). So now they’ll know that some unidentified person they were in close contact with recently just tested positive for Covid-19.
Then it’s up to them to go get a test.
No. You may want to separately engage with the HSE as part of a more manual contact-tracing process, but the app won’t be unveiling you.
Everyone swears it is so. Indeed, this has been one of the big delaying factors; the first version of the app was ditched for this reason. The new version is built on technology form Apple and Google that doesn’t let the government or the HSE identify the user. For example, the app is disabled from collecting any location data. You have to give it permission to do anything and you can withdraw that permission at several stages.
Apple and Google swear blind that this will not happen. Apple, in particular, stakes a lot of its reputation on not collecting ad information. The rest of your phone is way more likely to be collecting data on you than this app.
Any modern iPhone or Android smartphone. There are some very old smartphones, typically over six year old, that it won’t work on. It also won’t work on ‘feature’ phones like old Nokias.
A little bit, yes. Apple and Google have been at pains to say that they’ve tried to minimise this effect. But the fact is that it will be working away in the background non-stop, even when your phone is locked.
No. It’s totally voluntary. Although there are some questions about whether private companies’ HR departments might ask, or even require, employees to download it as a precautionary measure.
TCD experts say it’s not flawless at making connections, especially in shops and buses. On the other hand, if you do get an alert warning that someone recently, it’s very likely that you were in proximity at some point to a person with Covid-19.
If lots of people download it, it probably will. By ‘lots’, experts generally say it needs a minimum of around 20pc adoption to have any positive impact at all. One Oxford professor suggested it would need 60pc takeup to be really effective. For a variety of reasons, it looks unlikely to reach this level of adoption.
Some people won’t bother. Others aren’t allowed (if they’re under 16) or their phones are too old. Some might worry about the impact on battery life. And there remain a small number who say they’re still opposed to downloading it for privacy reasons, despite assurances. Those all add up.
We hope so, though we won’t know for sure until that app is launched.
Go into Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store and search for ‘HSE contact tracing app’. The government says that it will be available from tomorrow, but you may need to check back a few times.