Britons mass download their NHS Covid-19 tracking app

The NHS Covid 19 application for tracing SARS-CoV-2 contamination for England and Wales.

Despite a very long gestation and a few hiccups, success finally seems to be there. Four days after its official launch, on September 24, the NHS Covid 19 application for tracing Covid-19 contaminations for England and Wales had already been downloaded 12.4 million times (i.e. by more than one fifth of the populations concerned).

“This is the app with the most impressive adoption speed in our history”, welcomed Matt Hancock, the British Minister for Health, Monday, September 28, in the House of Commons. Scotland launched its own application on September 10 (“Protect Scotland”), which is also very successful, with 1 million downloads a week after its release (1/5e Population).

Read also Coronavirus: the French authorities call again to install the StopCovid application

Like other applications in Europe, the Anglo-Welsh NHS Covid-19 is based on a technology guaranteeing “decentralized” management of users’ personal data, which is exchanged between smartphones directly. This operation, which is based in England on tools provided by Apple and Google, is different from that of the French StopCovid application, built on a “centralized” model where a central server collects user data; it has so far only convinced 2.5 million users.

To use NHS Covid-19, Britons must enter the first three letters / numbers of their postcode. They receive an alert advising them to quarantine (fourteen days in the United Kingdom) if they have been in close contact with a person tested positive for the virus (smartphones communicate with each other via Bluetooth).

QR codes at the entrance to pubs

The NHS Covid-19 app.

The data is not kept for more than fourteen days, it is assured, and, above all, non-compliance with the quarantines notified by the application is not sanctioned by law. Only those who have been contacted by the official British tracing system (“Test & trace”) are liable to be fined (up to 10,000 pounds, anyway).

Read also StopCovid: the CNIL notes an improvement in the functioning of the application

The Johnson government launched the development of its application last May, initially opting for centralized technology, raising many concerns on the side of organizations defending online freedoms. The first tests, on the Isle of Wright, turned out to be very inconclusive. The project was quietly buried in late spring – it still cost the UK taxpayer over £ 11million.

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