UK could switch to decentralised model for contact tracing app

The UK's contact tracing app

The UK is reportedly examining the consequences of switching to the decentralised model for its contact tracing app following the government’s postponement of a trial of the second version of its coronavirus tracing app. If the government switches to the decentralised model, it will leverage an API that Google and Apple rolled out to their respective operating systems almost a month ago.

The current contact tracing app has so far been deployed on the Isle of Wight to see how well it performs in the real world. According to the BBC, one of the main reasons that the government is looking to the decentralised model is because the existing app is having problems using Bluetooth as a means to estimate distance.

By using the centralised approach, the UK had hoped to collect data on a computer server which it says could help epidemiologists tackle the pandemic. Some countries that have gone down this route are India and France. Meanwhile, the decentralised approach is more private, keeping logs on the handsets themselves. Countries that have gone down this route include Poland, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Latvia.

Officially, the UK has already started its contact tracing initiative across the whole of the UK, however, it is currently missing the mobile app component. Last week, the Guardian posted a video of an official claiming that the test and trace service would not be “fully operational” until September. Right now, it’s unclear exactly when the mobile app is going to be launched UK-wide.

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