The new HSE Covid-19 tracker app is being launched by the government today. But how does it work, and what happens to the data?
The HSE’s Covid-19 tracker app is now available to download, while the government officially launched the app today.
The contact tracing app can be found by searching COVID Tracker Ireland on app stores and will not work on any models below an iPhone 6 or Android 7.
Since launching last night, over 150,000 people have registered for it.
How does it work?
Using Bluetooth technology and anonymous codes, the app records if users are in close contact with another app user. These ‘contacts’ are generated by the phone and are called Random IDs. They are stored in the app for up to 14 days. If an app user has tested positive for Covid-19, the HSE will ask that person to provide this list of IDs. To do this, a six-digit code will be sent by text message to the user. This input allows the information to be shared. Subsequently, it will alert those contacts who have been closer than two metres to the subject for more than 15 minutes.
Those who test positive can choose to send this alert anonymously. If a user has chosen to share their phone number with the app, the HSE will phone them and provide information on how to keep themselves and others safe.
The app also allows a user to log their symptoms every day in ‘COVID Check-In’. This anonymous information helps the HSE to predict the spread of the virus. The latest facts and figures regarding coronavirus in Ireland will be available to view and an overview of app check-ins too.
What about my data?
The data is anonymous. Because there will be no centralisation of the information provided, it allows users to completely control their data. At various touchpoints in the app, you will be asked to enter information such as a phone number, location, and gender, but all of this is optional.
Apple and Google have developed a method that allows specific government-only Covid-19 apps to use Bluetooth technology that would otherwise not be available. None of the information in the app is shared with Google or Apple.
Location data is not of interest to the contact tracing app, so GPS or any other method created to track the movement of others is used. You may be asked to enable location services on your phone but this is needed for Bluetooth to work.
For more information on how the app works, please visit the HSE website.
Images: Screenshots of Covid Tracker Ireland App
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