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HSE's contact tracing app will be wound down in 90 days if it's deemed ineffective

The app will record if a user is in close contact with another user by exchanging anonymous codes.

File photo
File photo

THE HSE HAS said its contact tracing app will be wound down within 90 days if it’s deemed to not be effective.

Ahead of the Covid Tracker App’s launch, the HSE has released documents detailing how the app will work.

The Data Protection Impact Assessment for the app states that the app will be wound down within 90 days if it “is assessed as ineffective as part of its efficacy monitoring process, or if, on taking advice from NPHET, the Covid-19 crisis is declared over by Government”.

The app will be voluntary, but a Lero study published this week by Science Foundation Ireland found that 82% of the population said that they would be willing to install an app for contact tracing.

It will record if a user is in close contact with another user by exchanging anonymous codes that are held on the users’ phones.

People who test positive for the coronavirus will be able to choose if they want to anonymously alert other app users who they have been in close contact with.

The app will also allow the user to anonymously record information about how they feel every day.

The information stored on the app will not be transferred to a centralised server.

“The symptom tracker has the potential to generate valuable national data relevant to Covid-19. The accurate reporting of the timing of the first onset of symptoms will improve the speed and the accuracy of the tracing process,” the HSE said in a statement.

“In line with data protection law, the processing of data will be limited to this stated purpose. All personal data that is processed is kept to an absolute minimum.

“Users can choose to delete the app at any time and have full control over what information they share through the app.”

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72% detection rate

Fran Thompson, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the HSE, said the design of the app has been “informed by a robust development and testing programme”.

The app was developed by the HSE and the Department of Health, in collaboration with the Government Chief Information Officer and An Garda Síochána, together with technical partners from the Irish private sector (Expleo, Nearform, Information Security Assurance Services Ltd (ISAS), and EdgeScan) and scientific partners from Science Foundation Ireland.

“Results from our testing programme have shown that the app was able to accurately detect 72% of close contacts using the Google Apple API, Thompson noted.

Paul Reid, CEO of the HSE, said the app “will be an important part of our testing and tracing measures going forward”.

“The app will augment the existing contact tracing operations by quickly notifying users if they have been a close contact of a confirmed case, enabling users to record symptoms, and providing a trusted source of information about Covid-19.”

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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