UK NHS Ambulance In MotionSource: Getty

What you need to know

  • The UK's NHS already has a coronavirus tracing app in the works.
  • The app will gain support for Apple and Google's coronavirus API.
  • It'll enter testing next week.

The UK's NHS will be adding Apple and Google's new coronavirus API to its own app, according to a BBC report.

It was announced that the app was being built last month, but following the arrival of a new API from Apple and Google, health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that it will be integrated.

The idea is a simple one – users who are unwell update the app on their phone. That information is then used to send a notification to the people they've come into contact with, allowing them to take the required action.

"If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus, you can securely tell this new NHS app," he explained.

"And the app will then send an alert anonymously to other app users that you've been in significant contact with over the past few days, even before you had symptoms, so that they know and can act accordingly.

"All data will be handled according to the highest ethical and security standards, and would only be used for NHS care and research.

"And we won't hold it any longer than is needed."

But that isn't going down well with everyone. The University of Cambridge's Prof Ross Anderson is concerned that history will repeat itself here – and that history shows the NHS isn't all that great at keeping private data private.

"I recognise the overwhelming force of the public-health arguments for a centralised system, but I also have 25 years' experience of the NHS being incompetent at developing systems and repeatedly breaking their privacy promises when they do manage to collect some data of value to somebody else," added the professor of security engineering.

"I'm really uneasy about collecting lots of lightly-anonymised data in a system that becomes integrated into a whole-of-government response to the pandemic. We might never get rid of it."

Regardless, a version of the new app will begin testing next week.