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The UK state’s desire to keep tabs on us via smartphone apps is sinister. Fortunately, it’s turning into another Covid-19 cock-up

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With many countries starting to come out of lockdown, a route back to something like normality might be a ‘test, track and trace’ system. However, by not paying sufficient attention to privacy and technical concerns, the UK government seems to be making a mess of it.

Here's how it's supposed to work. We test people for Covid-19 or they could report symptoms which look like they might have the virus. If they are diagnosed with it, we ensure that they and everyone they have had contact with isolates themselves for two weeks. That should quickly cut off the chain of transmission.

Normally, this would be done by asking an infected person who they have been in contact with and letting those people know they could be infected, too. That's easy enough with sexually transmitted diseases - our partners are hopefully memorable - but with a highly infectious disease like Covid-19, that would be less reliable and very laborious.

The rise of the smartphone offers the possibility of automated contact tracing. The technology appears to be viable, if not without complications. Millions of people would need to install an app, which sends out an anonymous code via Bluetooth, which can be received by nearby phones, and also records codes sent from those phones. The upshot is that each phone has a database of who they've been close to.

If the app user is diagnosed with Covid-19, they can then send the mini-database of contacts up to a centralised server. They will be alerted and asked to isolate themselves for up to 14 days. In theory, if it all worked, people would be isolated from society before they had the chance to pass the disease on, quickly suppressing the prevalence of the virus.

The trouble is that the way the UK is doing all this in a different way to many other countries. From the narrow view........

© RT.com

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