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Irish contact tracing app to begin field testing next week

The executive says it will then be released ‘once it is fully operational’.

An illustration of a Covid-19 contact tracing app.
An illustration of a Covid-19 contact tracing app.
Image: PA Images

THE HSE HAS said it is to begin field testing of the promised new contact tracing app in the coming week, before it is released to the public thereafter.

Three weeks ago, the HSE said it hoped that the app would be available by the end of this month but that deadline has now been pushed into June.  

Providing an update on the status of the app, the HSE said that testing will begin this week before details of it are then passed to the Data Protection Commissioner.

“The app will be launched once it is fully operational and the necessary approvals have been received from the Data Protection Commissioner, NPHET, HSE and government,” the HSE said in a statement. 

The app is being prepared for field testing which is due to commence next week. This will validate the use of Exposure Notification Service (ENS) to trace close contacts. The ENS has been developed by Apple and Google.

“The Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) will be submitted to the Data Protection Commissioner and will be made available along with the technical documents and source code before the launch of the app.”

Contact tracing apps are seen as a key tool in trying to tame the Covid-19 pandemic in the medium term. Google and Apple are offering their own platform to health authorities around the world with contact tracing. 

The app works by allowing your phone to interact with other phones around you via bluetooth. The app does not have to be open to do this and the two tech giants say they cannot see users’ identities because users are assigned a random ID that changes. 

The ENS works by informing an individual if they have come into contact with a person who tests positive for Covid-19. 

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The app will be voluntary, a fact again repeated by the HSE today.  

“As part of the national response to Covid-19, a new national mobile app for Ireland has been developed. It will allow citizens to play an active role in the contact tracing process, helping them to stay safe and protect each other. This will assist in national contact tracing efforts in the months ahead,” the executive says. 

“The Irish app is being designed in a way that maximises privacy as well as maximising value for public health. The app will operate on a voluntary and fully opt-in basis.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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