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NHS contact tracing app receives fix for scary notification
by Paul Hill
The NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app has received an update to give users clarity about a scary message that appears regarding COVID-19 exposure but vanishes with no explanation when pressed. When users go into the app after pressing the notification, they will now be told that they can ignore the warning if certain conditions are not met.
With the app launching in the last week of September, millions of people have found time to install the app so they can be asked to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. With the increased use, people began receiving a notification that read “Possible COVID-19 exposure: Someone you were near reported having COVID-19. Exposure date, duration and signal strength have been saved.” The message would disappear when pressed and no more information would be provided in the app unless you were in contact with the person for 15 minutes at a distance of two metres.
In the new update, users that click the notification will receive another message if they don’t meet the requirements to self-isolate saying: “COVID-19 Exposure Check Complete. Don’t worry, we have assessed your risk and there is no need to take action at this time. Please continue to stay alert and follow the latest advice on social distancing.”
According to the BBC, the team behind the app is working on a big update for the app which will switch to a newer version of the Apple-Google framework which could stop the “Possible COVID-19 exposure” notifications altogether and cut down on the confusion. It’s reported that the framework update will also improve the way Bluetooth is used to measure the distance between two phones.
Source: BBC News
England and Wales COVID-19 contact tracing app launches
by Paul Hill
The COVID-19 contact tracing app has finally launched in England and Wales. The new app is based on the Google and Apple API which is decentralised and offers a high degree of privacy that doesn’t require users to register an account.
To use the app, you must be using a device running Android 6.0+ or iOS 13.5+ that supports Bluetooth 4.0+. Additionally, you must be aged 16 or over to use the app – this has been reduced from 18+ which was the age requirement during the trials.
The new app comes with several features, immediately when you begin using it you’re asked to provide the first half of your postcode, this will tell you how high the COVID-19 risk is in your area and provides you with advice based on this. In the background, the app will use Bluetooth to keep a log of all the other devices it comes into contact with and if any of their owners report a positive COVID-19 test, you’ll be asked to isolate for a week.
In addition to Bluetooth logs, the app allows you to check-in at venues. Businesses will display QR codes that you can scan, if there are reported cases at the venue at the time you were there you’ll be notified. It's important to note that you only have to check-in, the system will automatically check you out after a certain period.
Other features in the app include a symptom checker, a link to read the latest government advice, and a section to enter your COVID-19 test result. If you enter a positive result, people who you’ve come into contact with will be notified to isolate but your identity will remain private.
According to BBC News, users that ignore the app’s self-isolation warning are in theory liable to be fined. However, because the app is anonymous, the fines will be impossible to enforce should you choose to ignore them. If you feel you cannot afford to self-isolate, be sure to check the government website for any financial assistance you may be able to claim.
People living in England and Wales ought to feel reassured about their privacy. In the first iteration of the app, the government was using a centralised model that offered less privacy. This was eventually dropped due to technical limitations. The only personal information that users will enter into the new app is the first half of their postcode.
You can download the app from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store now.
Gallery: NHS COVID-19 Contact Tracing app
Cyberflashing law reforms set to come to England and Wales
by Paul Hill
The Law Commission for England and Wales has published proposals to better protect victims from harmful online behaviour. The proposals suggest an alteration to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to cover Cyberflashing (unsolicited nude images and videos) and reforms to the Malicious Communications Act (MCA) 1988 and the Communications Act (CA) 2003 to criminalise pile-on harassment.
Pile-on harassment is defined by the Law Commission as several different individuals sending harassing communications to a victim. The proposed changes include communication such as emails, social media posts, and WhatsApp messages. It also includes communications over Bluetooth or a local intranet which aren’t yet covered by the Communications Act 2003.
The Law Commission said that online abuse is covered by the MCA 1988 and the CA 2003 but suffers from a range of problems including that they do not “adequately criminalise” cyberflashing and pile-on harassment. It also said the threshold of criminality is too low and with its reforms wants to heighten it to only include those who knowingly post false information about someone or are intending to cause harm.
Commenting on the proposals, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
In the proposal, the Law Commission also asks questions about other areas that could be reformed in the future. These included topics such as incitement or encouragement of pile-on harassment, knowing participation in pile-on harassment, the glorification of violence or violent crime, and incitement or encouragement of self-harm. You can find the full paper on the Law Commission’s website.
England and Wales to launch COVID tracing app on Sept. 24
by Paul Hill
The U.K. government has announced that England and Wales will launch a COVID-19 contact tracing app to the general public on September 24. The two countries will be the last in the United Kingdom to launch a contact tracing app with Northern Ireland launching one in July and Scotland launching its app last week.
The new contact tracing app that’ll be used in England and Wales has been in a trial phase since the middle of August. Residents of Newham in London and the Isle of Wight have been able to help beta test the app.
Unlike the centralised app which the government originally opted to pursue, the new app will use Bluetooth to detect nearby people but will also let you scan QR codes when you attend a venue. If anyone who visited the venue tests positive for coronavirus you will be notified and told to isolate yourself.
Discussing the QR codes, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
If the app detects that you may have coronavirus, the nice green circle will turn an alarming red and will let you know that you need to isolate yourself until a certain time and day. In England, if you do not follow the isolation instruction you can be fined, however, your usage of the app is anonymous so authorities can’t tell if you’re flouting the rules.
By Usama Jawad96
Ridley Scott has mixed opinions about Fortnite's parody of Apple's 1984 commercial
by Usama Jawad
The court battle between Apple and Epic Games is still raging on, with both sides expected to submit their respective arguments over the next few weeks with a full hearing scheduled on September 28, 2020.
Circling back to the early stages of this feud, Epic Games mocked Apple by releasing a parody version of the Cupertino tech giant's famous "1984" commercial, this time showing Apple as the antagonist "Big Brother". Famed movie director Ridley Scott, who is the mastermind behind Apple's futuristic advertisement, has now shared his views on the parody.
For those unaware, Apple's 1984 commercial is considered a masterclass in advertising, and was directed by Ridley Scott, who was well-known for being the director behind movies like Alien and Blade Runner at that time.
While Scott is impressed with the animation in the parody, he appears to have mixed views about the message itself. In a statement to IGN, the director stated:
It's unclear why Scott expected Epic Games to use his work to portray a more powerful message in a feud related to gaming and taxes over in-app purchases. You can view the parody commercial in its entirety here.
Source: IGN | Image via Mental Floss