A new mobile app launched by the government as part of its ‘track, trace, and test’ programme to slow the spread of the coronavirus has had major technical issues, an analysis has found.
UK privacy charity Privacy International has claimed the NHSX app, built to track and trace people who have had Covid-19, does not work if left on in the background or if the phone is put to sleep.
The charity also alleges the software also lacks an opt-in, opt-out feature to stop user data flowing to third-party trackers and does not work on older devices.
Privacy International conducted a trial of the app and noticed it disabled a phone’s sleep mode and did not function properly unless it was actively being used.
‘The fact that the app must be in the foreground to be effective,’ the review states, ‘makes its usefulness highly questionable.’
‘Many workers who are putting themselves at risk, and are also a likely conduit for the spreading of the virus, will be unable to have the app open while working.’
The report pointed out that key frontline workers like delivery drivers and NHS might not then be able to use the new system.
It also claimed the software worked worse on iPhones as it did not let off a signal to Bluetooth beacons which helps track a users whereabouts, and did not function on older mobiles.
‘The cursory testing we have completed of this latest app seems to suggest that only those with modern smartphones will be eligible to run it.
‘This means it is likely to exclude those who can only afford cheaper phones, and most likely people on lower incomes.
‘It is of note that those who are on the lowest incomes are disproportionately likely to be key/essential workers and the elderly, who are at most risk/exposure.’
The app is being tried on the Isle of Wight and, if successful, will be rolled out nationally.