UK to use Google-Apple model for tracing app in U-turn: BBC

A 3D printed Google logo is placed on the Apple Macbook in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government will abandon the centralised model of its coronavirus test-and-trace app and switch to one based on technology provided by Apple and Google, the BBC reported on Thursday.

Apple and Google have been in talks with Britain about the technology, which uses a decentralised model. The head of the UK’s programme said last month a centralised app can potentially give more insight into outbreaks of COVID-19, but offers less privacy than decentralised rivals.

Apple and Google have barred authorities using their technology from collecting GPS location data or requiring users to enter personal data.

The firms’ model has attracted the interest of over 20 countries, though some of the restrictions they have imposed have frustrated governments as the world’s top two smartphone makers undercut the technology’s usefulness by prioritising user privacy.

The current UK app is being tested on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England.

Ministers have admitted to technical issues with the app, which meant that it was not ready for use in time for the launch of England’s test and trace system on May 28.

Britain’s testing co-ordinator has said the tracing system and the app are “distinct but complementary”, and it is advantageous to introduce one before the other.

James Bethell, a junior health minister, on Wednesday said, with regards to the app, that the government wished to “get something going for the winter”, but that it was not a priority.

He said that the pilot had gone “very well indeed”.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Kate Holton/Guy Faulconbridge