Maybe you’ve seen it, a social media post claiming that a coronavirus tracker has secretly been added to your cellphone.
Variations of the post have been spreading across social media platforms and read something like this:
“So when everyone was having ‘phone disruptions’ earlier this week, they were adding COVID-19 Trackers to our phones. If you have an Android phone, go under Settings, then GOOGLE settings and it’s there. If you have an iPhone, go to settings, privacy, then health. I don’t think you really understand what they’re trying to do here.”
For Android phones:
Even if you didn’t install yourself your mobile phone now has a coronavirus tracker in its settings
The ‘COVID-19 Exposure Logging’ tool is a contact tracing system designed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
It’s been automatically turned off on all phones – but many users might be surprised to find it in their settings.
The add-on is intended to alert people who have been in contact with someone infected.
Apple and Google announced the joint effort on April 10 and Apple rolled out the plan with its iOS 13.5 which was released on May 20.
If you have an iPhone, you can find it by going into ‘Settings’, then ‘Privacy’ and then ‘health’.
The “COVID-19 Exposure Logging” feature says: “When enabled, iPhone can exchange random IDs with other devices using Bluetooth.
“This enables an app to notify you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19. Exposure Logging cannot access any data in, or add any data to, the Health app.”
On Android phones, the tracker is kept under ‘Settings’ and then ‘Google Settings’.
According to Apple, you can’t turn on Exposure Logging without an authorised app that can send exposure notifications.
Yesterday The Guardian reported that the government has been forced to abandon a centralised coronavirus contact-tracing app after spending three months and millions of pounds on technology that experts had repeatedly warned would not work.
In an embarrassing U-turn, Matt Hancock said the NHS would switch to an alternative designed by the US tech companies Apple and Google, which is months away from being ready.
At the Downing Street briefing, the health secretary said the government would not “put a date” on when the new app may be launched, although officials conceded it was likely to be in the autumn or winter.
The idea behind the NHS app was that it could trace anybody that a person with coronavirus symptoms came into close contact with by using the Bluetooth connectivity on a standard smartphone, and notify them to self-isolate.
Ministers had insisted on using a centralised version of the untested technology in which anonymised data from people who reported feeling ill was held in an NHS database to enable better tracing and data analysis. This version was not supported by Apple and Google.
Work started in March as the pandemic unfolded, but despite weeks of work, officials admitted on Thursday that the NHS app only recognised 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Google Android devices during testing on the Isle of Wight.