Details on Covid Tracker App published
Department of Health and HSE have published details of a Covid Tracker App currently in development.
The progression of similar initiatives and systems worldwide have either been blighted by opposition, concerns over data privacy, or poor user uptake.
In a bid to remain open and transparent about the development of the Covid Tracker App for Ireland, the Department of Health and the HSE have today published several important documents. They include the Data Protection Impact Assessment, the source code, the Product Explainer for the Covid Tracker App, and a series of app design and development reports.
All the information is available form the the HSE website here.
Both the Department and HSE say that as the country reopens, contact tracing and the early identification of symptoms, will become “increasingly important”.
The Covid Tracker App they state will allow each individual to play an important part in controlling COVID-19, “helping everyone to stay safe and protect each other”.
The app 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 coronavirus will be able to choose if they want to anonymously alert other app users who they have been in close contact with. In this way the app will augment the existing testing and tracing operation and enable the notification of close contacts that are unknown to each other.
The app will also allow the user to anonymously record information about how they feel every day.
The symptom tracker, its claimed, 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.
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 also choose to delete the app at any time and have full control over what information they share through the app.
Furthermore, a governance commitment is in place to dismantle the operation of the app once the COVID-19 crisis is over.
Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the HSE Fran Thompson said: “The design of Covid Tracker App has been informed by a robust development and testing programme. The app development process here in Ireland has been led 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.”
Supporting the development of the technology, a programme of public health research has been completed to ensure that the app is easy to use, protects privacy, and supports users over time. The findings of independent research the recent Lero study published this week by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) found that 82% of the population said that they would be willing to install an app for contact tracing.
This work at a national level has been situated in an unprecedented global collaboration between governments, industry and the scientific community. The Irish app, designed employing the decentralised model, allows us to align fully with the privacy principles and public health guidance issued by the EU Commission, the OECD, WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Commenting on the development, CEO of the HSE, Paul Reid 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.”