Saturday 20 June 2020

No one is forcefully installing COVID-19 apps on your phone

All these conspiracy theories

I have been seeing shared notices and things on my Social Media timeline about Google and Apple automatically installed a COVID-19 Tracking app on our phones. At first, I ignored the notices, but they were getting pervasive and it will not be long before one of my friends or acquaintances contacts me to confirm whether this was true or not.
It meant one should just put paid to the issue, no one is automatically installing an app on your phone, any app installation would always require your consent along with the express granting of permissions to access features on your phone.
On my Android phone
Now, I do not have an Apple device, but I can check my Google Android device to explain exactly what you can view on your phones. On your Android phone, choose Settings, then choose Google. There, you will see the option COVID-19 exposure notifications. This was a feature pushed to Android phones in the last couple of months as part of an update process. [Forbes: Have Apple And Google Suddenly Uploaded A COVID-19 Tracking App To Your Phone? The Facts Behind The Furore]
Select Google after you have chosen Settings on your Android phone.

The COVID-19 exposure notifications feature that contains elements you setup and control.

Choosing the COVID-19 exposure notifications, you are presented with a number of options for your phone to be fully engaged in a mobile phone tracking and contact tracing activity. You need to turn on Bluetooth first. Then you need to install and setup a participating tracking app. The original ‘Track and Trace’ app that was piloted in the Isle of Wight for the UK has been shelved, it would not be rolled out in the UK. [GOV.UK: Next phase of NHS coronavirus (COVID-19) app announced]
The COVID-19 exposure notification features you control.
There are plans to develop a new app that takes advantage of the joint Google and Apple COVID-19 exposure notifications feature. Using a road and vehicle analogy, it is basically, a road with traffic stops and markings, open for use by anyone with a vehicle. The vehicle is the app, you need to put it on the road yourself to drive it, else, the road is just there, and you are going nowhere.
[Rant Alert] The app had nothing to do with the NHS, the NHS tag was applied to give the app some legitimacy, the NHS did not commission, tender, build or deploy the app, this was a created by a private company and managed by a committee instigated by the government and headed by someone who once headed a company with major data breaches and who has no expertise in public health or epidemiology. [End of Rant.] [The BMJ] [The Guardian]
You control everything
Furthermore, you have the means to control, delete or turn off the features along with deleting the participating app. Then your phone generates random IDs, these are anonymised identities of your phone that you can share which would link up with other proximity phones participating fully in the COVID-19 exposure notification programme, after the other person has enabled Bluetooth and installed the participating app.
Those random IDs will be deleted after 14 days, you can also manually delete those random IDs at your leisure. Fundamentally, you have to act to be involved, no one is commandeering your phone into a programme you have not actively and willingly subscribed to.
Let your fears be allayed.

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